From Daily Republic
By Nathan Halverson
SUISUN CITY - Suisun City resident Donna Whited noticed a small billow of smoke coming from her neighbor's garage while sitting in her dining room about 9 a.m. Thursday.
Whited immediately called 911 and then stepped outside to see if she could see any flames.
"By the time I got outside there were explosions and the garage was in flames," Whited said.
Within minutes flames engulfed the two-story home at 927 Steller Way, moving from the garage into the home, according to neighbors and firefighters. No one appeared to be home when the blaze started in the southwest corner of the garage, and no injuries were reported. The accidental fire started from an electric failure on a freezer located in the garage, according to Suisun City Fire Department Captain Gregory Bounds.
The fire was a testament to just how fast a home can go up in flames.
The fire station at 621 Pintail Drive - located only half a mile from the house fire - received the call shortly after Whited dialed 911. Within minutes they were at the fire, but by then the house was a raging blaze.
"It looks like the garage had quite a few things that helped it along," Bounds said. "Our station is just right around the corner."
The garage didn't have sheetrock, which helps retard flames, and the blaze quickly fed on the wood studs, Bounds said.
"It had exposed wood, which is basically like toothpicks to a fire," he said. "It went up quick."
The house was nearly destroyed. Only a black ember shell remained where the garage stood. And the second story and attic were totally engulfed in flames, leaving little or nothing to salvage.
Firefighters first controlled the blaze with two hoses, spraying water on the garage before two firefighters moved into the house through the front door.
"We entered the front door and explosions were going off," said Kevin Shepard, one of the two firefighters. "It was shaking us bad. Literally the ground was shaking and vibrating."
In a stark description of how uninhabitable a home is during a fire, Shepard said the black smoke was so thick he and the other firefighter, who were breathing from oxygen tanks, were essentially in complete darkness and navigated by running their hands along the wall.
The blaze was under control in about half an hour. But pockets of flames still burned in the charred house nearly 90 minutes after Whited called 911.
Neighbor Rick Pangelinan, whose house is located only about 20 feet from the burned-out garage, thanked Whited for spotting the smoke early.
"Lucky Donna saw it fast, because my house was going to be next," he said.
Nathan Halverson can be reached at 427-6934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.