July 29, 2014

West Modesto fire displaces three families

An elderly couple are grateful that their 12-year-old neighbor started pounding on their door to warn them that their home was on fire. Three families were displaced as a result of the four-alarm blaze in west Modesto on Tuesday afternoon.

Three families were displaced as a result of a four-alarm fire in west Modesto on Tuesday afternoon.

The fire started about 12:30 p.m. in or near a home in the 300 block of Bleu Chapelle Court south of California Avenue.

“Upon arrival, we had a significant amount of fire between two homes; just the way the geography is right here, we ended up having four homes that were immediately threatened,” said Modesto Fire Department Battalion Chief Alan Ernst.

The two-story home on Bleu Chapelle had heavy fire coming from the second floor, he said.

The elderly couple who have lived in the home since it was built in 1986 weren’t aware of the fire until their 12-year-old neighbor started pounding on their door and yelling.

Paramedics at the scene tended to a few scrapes the boy suffered when he reportedly tried to climb over their fence when they didn’t answer the door.

“I kept on knocking and knocking, so my mom came and screamed and … I started screaming on the side of the house and the firefighters came,” said the boy, Omar Perez.

The couple, Lois Vonhof, 88, and her husband, Lyman Vonhof, 83, and her sister visiting from Seattle, Fern Robinette, said they were grateful the boy helped them escape with their lives.

As the women sat in chairs in front of the neighbor’s house, Lyman Vonhof spoke with a representative from Inderjit S. Toor Construction about boarding up the home.

A firefighter rescued one of the couple’s 19 cats, but Lois Vonhof said she was worried about the whereabouts of the others and what they would do with those that were located.

The construction company is going to put up the couple in a hotel for a few days and help them find temporary housing for their cats.

At least six other people displaced from two homes on Inez Drive to the east will get assistance from the the American Red Cross, said Ernst.

A home to the south on Champagne Court sustained some smoke damage but is habitable.

Ernst estimated that the fire caused $200,000 in damage to the home on Bleu Chapelle, $100,000 in damage to each of the homes on Inez and about $40,000 in damage to the home on Champagne.

The origin and cause of the fire remain under investigation.

Firefighters from the Ceres Fire Department and Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District assisted the Modesto Fire Department, for a total of 43 personnel.

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