Families make daring fire escape in San Rafael with bed sheets

A quick-moving two-alarm fire at a San Rafael apartment complex forced one man and his son to escape from a second floor window by tying their bedsheets together, while a mother of four lowered her children and a baby down to the ground where several men caught them, according to neighbors who say they saw the narrow escape.

The San Rafael Fire Department says the call came in about 10:45 a.m. Wednesday saying some people might be trapped inside the apartments.

When crews arrived they immediately started evacuating the burning building at 120 Larkspur Street. Flames burned through the wooden balconies at the front of two apartment units. The fire was so intense, residents in the two burning units already had jumped from the second floor.

Gerardin Rodas was in unit 12 and said he knew he and his youngest son had to get out.

"It was my idea to use the sheets. My son was sleeping," said Rodas.

Rodas said he tied their sheets and a blanket together, woke his son and they escaped out the back window. Rodas said he noticed the fire because he had just gotten up to warm up some soup in the microwave and when he returned to the front room, he says he could see the fire.

Neighbors say a mother in Unit 11 was screaming for help.

"She was saying I'm going to die, I'm going to die," said Michael Chan, 9, a neighbor who says he saw the fire from his home across the walkway.

Neighbors say the mother had three small children and a baby. They say she dropped them from the second floor and several men caught them below. Then she jumped from the second floor and was taken to the hospital with burn injuries to her arm.

"I saw the little baby they dropped them first and then the other ones," said Michael.

"This fire went to a second alarm, bringing in most San Rafael resources and engines and ladder trucks from many surrounding agencies," said San Rafael Fire Department's  Deputy Fire Chief Bob Sinnott, "The fire was under control within 20 minutes of our arrival."

Fire crews say two other women and a child were rescued from the back windows of the adjacent building at 110 Larkspur because the fire was too hot for them to escape from the front door.

No loss of life, but the loss just a day after Christmas leaves the fire victims with no homes.

"All I have is this car. Everything else is gone," said Rodas.

The Red Cross is helping the families with hotel rooms and money for clothes and food.

Fire crews say have not determined the cause of the fire.