Santa Paula Firefighters discuss how to attack the apartment fire at 213 E. Santa Barbara Street. The fire was knocked down quickly. Photo by Don Johnson

Quick response keeps W. Santa Barbara St. fire from spreading

May 25, 2007
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesFour Santa Paulans were displaced when an apartment fire forced then from their home on Monday, according to a Santa Paula Fire Department official.SPFD Chief Rick Araiza said that the fire on the 200 block of West Santa Barbara Street, just east of Dean Drive, was reported at about 4:25 p.m. Upon arrival, SPFD firefighters found that one unit in the four-plex was ablaze and that people in the area had tried to douse the fire.Rusty Solis of Santa Paula said he was visiting nearby when he and Marcos Campos became aware of the fire, and tried to fight it with hoses. “We all heard the crisping of the wood in the attic and told the residents to get out,” said Solis. “The smoke was really black” from the fire that had engulfed the kitchen. “We had backed up by the time the fire department arrived,” noted Solis.Ruben Carrillo, also a city resident, who owns one of the four-plexes, turned off the electricity to the apartment after sparking was seen. “Hopefully, everything turns out okay,” Carrillo said.Chief Araiza said that the residents, two adults and two children, were able to escape the second story unit without injury: “She saw the flames, grabbed her child and left.... We believe the fire started when the woman was cooking and she thought she had turned off” the stove burner. “There was hot oil in the pan that caught fire, flashed and got into the cabinets.”The cause is still being investigated, as the fire could have started from a “defective hood system.... We have not ruled that out, but we are satisfied that the cause was accidental.”
Ventura County and Fillmore firefighters also responded to the scene for mutual aid, sending engines and a light-and-air unit.Chief Araiza said there was concern that the fire could rapidly spread. “Those apartments all had flat roofs” that were later covered by gabled roofs, he noted. Due to the reconstruction, firefighters had to cut through the ceiling of the apartment to make sure that it had not spread into the area between the gabled roof and the flat portion. Such work would not be permitted today due to access requirements, noted Chief Araiza.The fire was quickly doused, and the structural loss was limited to an estimated $20,000. Firefighters cleared the scene at about 6:15 p.m. The American Red Cross of Ventura County was notified, and will assist the residents.Overall, said Chief Araiza, “it was a good response. Once again the two engines were both there” in a matter of minutes that “made for a good save. Another few minutes, the fire could have been in the attic” and the structure - including adjoining apartments - a complete loss. “Our fire department is doing a pretty good job,” said Chief Araiza.

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