A fire inside the wall of a three-sided garage Monday was quickly doused by Santa Paula Fire personnel and backup. The fire occurred at an apartment complex on South Mill Street.

SPFD: Carbon monoxide detector did its job at Downtown area apartment

March 10, 2017
Santa Paula News

A carbon monoxide detector did its job at a Downtown area apartment complex where a small fire in a parking structure was doused Monday.

According to Santa Paula Assistant Fire Chief Luis Espinosa, the March 6 incident was reported at 10:22 a.m. 

A 911 caller reported that a carbon monoxide detector had gone off at the apartment complex, located at 214 S. Mill St., accompanied by the odor of smoke. 

Espinosa said, “Upon arrival, Engine 81 reported smoke coming from the garage area and upgraded the call to a structure fire,” and summoned mutual aid from Ventura County and Ventura City Fire departments. 

Firefighters found a small fire burning within the wall interior of the garage, which Espinosa said was “immediately extinguished…”

As there was no “obvious ignition source found,” a Fire Investigator was requested.

Espinosa said it was determined that the fire was caused by a “long process of wood deterioration,” known formally as pyrolysis. 

A possible electrical charge of metal within the space was also suspected. 

The building owner was advised to contact an electrician to have the wiring examined. Santa Paula Building & Safety also responded to the scene.

Espinosa said damage to the structure was estimated at about $5,000.

And, he noted, “The detection device was instrumental in alerting the occupants,” to the emergency. 

The complex where the incident occurred has two separate buildings with the smaller two-unit structure the scene of the fire.

Any smoke produced by fire contains carbon monoxide and Espinosa said a detector alerted residents of the unit. 

“They had the detector in the living room and the unit kept going off. Initially, they thought it was a battery issue and contacted the manager about it, but then they began to smell the odor of smoke,” from the smoldering fire and called 911.

The three-sided garage where the fire occurred was directly below the living unit.

“Fortunately, they were home, they were able to detect it, hear the alarm,” and summon help.

Not that there wasn’t a serendipitous aspect to the incident: “The woman resident works during the day but she just happened to be home,” because her son was sick. 

If not, or if there had not been a carbon monoxide detector, the incident could have been much more serious.

Residents were displaced for a short time as the power was shut off and an electrician had to check the wiring. Once it was determined there was no more danger from wiring the residents were allowed back in.

Espinosa said no injuries were reported in connection with the blaze that drew three engines, 12 firefighters and two chief officers.

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