Explosions, fire burn home in west Modesto

09/14/2013 8:31 PM

09/14/2013 8:32 PM

A backyard fire punctuated by a number of small explosions destroyed much of a home in the 900 block of Wilma Drive in west Modesto, endangering a neighboring house and sparking a half-acre grass fire in an adjacent field.

Neighbors said they alerted the family inside and helped the children and parents escape with their two dogs. The only injury was to a cat, fire officials said.

It was a better ending than many expected as explosions occurred and flames shot into the sky shortly after 3p.m. Saturday.

Neighbor Micah Cole said he heard three or four explosions.

“It sounded like bombs going off,” he said. Cole and another man ran to the house and pounded on the door. The family inside was frightened by the noise but had not realized the danger was in their own back yard, he said.

“We went in the house and got them out,” he said.

Aleen Ortiz said she was moving in one door down from the fire scene Saturday. She and one of her daughters watched the firefighters work from across the street.

“I had relief that it wasn’t my house, but also a moment of panic when I saw the flames,” Ortiz said.

Firefighters arrived to find one home ablaze and a second in danger, said Battalion Chief Alan Ernst of the Modesto Regional Fire Authority. Flames shot up tall cypress trees behind the home and a spark caught a field behind the home on fire, he said. A cat in the field reportedly was burned, but firefighters trying to save it were unable to catch the frightened animal after chasing it through three yards, officials said.

Crews from Modesto and Ceres Fire were able to halt the blaze before it reached the neighboring home, which lost only a section of fence, Ernst said. The first home suffered severe damage as the blaze swept in from the covered back porch and across its attic. Ernst set an initial estimate of damage to the home at $75,000.

The Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District moved in to cover Modesto and Ceres territory during the incident, Ernst said. “That partnership is really working well operationally. We’re sharing resources a lot more,” he said.

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