A two-alarm fire spread to three homes, destroying at least one, on Bethel Island in the Delta early Wednesday morning, authorities said.
The fire located on Taylor Road was reported at 2:35 a.m. and presented several challenges to arriving firefighters. There were live power lines downed by the blaze, there were no nearby fire hydrants and one of the homes ablaze was a massive 40-feet high structure.
Jody Mazzarella, the owner of the large home, said she was awakened by a neighbor pounding on her door.
“I was sleeping and heard someone banging (on the door) downstairs,” she told KTVU. “I went out and found the next door house totally engulfed in flames…We got out and turned on our hoses…but we were told to stop because there were power lines.”
Mazzarella spend the next four hours watching her home consumed by flames as firefighters did not have the proper equipment to reach the top of the 40-foot high three-story house.
“That is the tragedy that is Bethel Island,” she said. “No one can fight a fire in a home that is 40 feet (high).”
Neighbor Rich Carlson said it took a while for the fire department to arrive to battle the blaze.
“The fire department did an awesome job once they got here,” he said. “It seemed like it took a little while longer than I was expecting because I kept looking over my shoulder wondering when I was going to see their lights…but my house is still standing because of them.”
Carlson said when he ran out of his home he could not believe what he was seeing.
“Amazement is one word,” he said, “I just couldn’t believe what I saw when I walked outside.”
Firefighters were also slowed in their attempts to battle the flames by the downed power lines. It took PG&E crews 90 minutes to arrive on the scene to turn off the power.
East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Chief Hugh Henderson said firefighters arrived to find a one-story house engulfed in flames, which had spread to two adjacent two-story homes on either side.
Crews began battling the fire at the home in the middle where it appears to have started, he said.
As they were working on that home, a power line fell, "which hampered our ability to get at the second house," Henderson said.
The home in the middle burned to the ground, and the fire was still smoldering in the second home as of 7:30 a.m., although no flames could be seen.
"Both houses are going to be total losses," Henderson said.
The third home sustained about $20,000 to $25,000 in damage, he said.
Henderson said the mop-up operation would take several hours.
"We still have a lot of work to do," he told KTVU. "We can't do it from the inside out, we have to do it from the outside in. So it's going to be a slow process."
No injuries have been reported and the cause of the fire remains under investigation, according to fire officials.
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