- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

July 27—Firefighters raced to contain a wind-whipped blaze in southwest Santa Rosa Monday that damaged one home and threatened several others, a potential harbinger of things to come during what is predicted to be a week of scorching hot temperatures.

“It’s windy. It’s dry. It’s warm,” Santa Rosa Fire Battalion Chief Jack Piccinini said of conditions at the scene of Monday’s blaze on Corby Avenue.

Investigators believe the 3:30 p.m. blaze was started by two power lines being blown together by the wind, causing a transformer to explode. Sparks rained down in a grass field, igniting a blaze that quickly began to spread.

Vincent Hamilton, who rents the home in the 2100 block of Corby Avenue that was damaged by the fire, said he was awakened from a nap by the smell of smoke. He rushed outside and attempted to douse the flames with a garden hose but a power outage zapped electricity to the home’s water well and the hose ran dry.

Hamilton, 64, described his helplessness watching flames devour the grass and then spread to the home, where the fire overtook the garage, attic and backyard patio.

“I kept the grass low for this reason,” he said. “But it went up like gasoline.”

The grass field surrounds the home on three sides. At the rear of the lot is a large sound wall adjacent to Highway 101.

Piccinini said the fire drew a second-alarm response amid concerns the blaze might spread to other homes.

Much of the 3.5-acre lot was charred by the flames. But firefighters managed to save most of the home.

Piccinini said things could have been much worse had the sound wall not served as a fire break.

“The wind conditions made it very, very challenging,” he said.

Six fire engines and three trucks responded to the call, with firefighters from Sebastopol and Rincon Valley assisting Santa Rosa crews in battling the blaze.

Corby Avenue was closed between Baker Avenue and Smokewood Drive while fire crews were on the scene. The road re-opened at 5:40 p.m.

Piccinini said firefighters fear this week could be a particularly busy one for them due to the wind and heat.

The National Weather Service is forecasting hot temperatures around the region through Thursday, with highs around Sonoma County expected to reach the upper 90s — and warmer inland — at least through Wednesday. Bay Area air quality officials have called for the first Spare the Air Day of summer today.

Hamilton’s immediate concern was assessing damage to the home where he has lived for three years. He said the fire appeared to destroy a 1959 Mercedes-Benz that was parked in the garage and restored to pristine condition.

Hamilton also said he spotted several feral cats that lived in the field running from the blaze. He said some of the cats appeared to be suffering burn wounds. “It didn’t look good,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or [email protected]

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(c)2015 The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.)

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