A dramatic one-alarm fire damaged two homes on a cul-de-sac near Pinole Valley High School Thursday evening, a fire inspector said.
The blaze was reported shortly before 5 p.m. on Sarah Court, a small street near Interstate Highway 80 and Pinole Valley Road.
Firefighters arrived to find the upper portions of two adjacent two-story houses on fire, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Inspector George Laing said.
He said it appears something sparked a fire in an outdoor space between the homes that ignited some debris and a fence and caused a gas meter to fail, which released a stream of gas that fueled the blaze, Laing said.
The heat caused several propane cylinders and aerosol cans that were in that space to burst, and the fire then spread to the homes themselves, he said.
Some Pinole Valley High School athletes heard the explosions.
"It drew the attention of the nearby high school students who were on the baseball field," Laing said.
They rushed over, arriving as one of the homeowners exited the house to see what was happening, he said.
Firefighters contained the blaze in less than half an hour, confining the flames to the homes' attic areas. Fire damage to each home is estimated at about $25,000, but that figure could rise because of water damage, Laing said.
No injuries were reported.
The response included crews from the Pinole and El Cerrito fire departments and the Contra Costa County and Rodeo-Hercules fire protection districts.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
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