Fire Damages Home; Blaze Injures Three Firefighters

Firefighters use axes to help smoke escape from a home that caught fire Tuesday morning.

Hollister
– Fire crews battled a raging blaze that sent three firefighters
to the hospital Tuesday morning and torched a Victoria Avenue home
packed with the residents’ belongings.
Hollister – Fire crews battled a raging blaze that sent three firefighters to the hospital Tuesday morning and torched a Victoria Avenue home packed with the residents’ belongings.

Eight occupants escaped injury, but the fire caused at least $300,000 in damage, Hollister Fire Capt. Mike O’Connor said.

The fire took more than two hours to extinguish. The home’s wooden interior and rooms filled waist-high with possessions made the blaze difficult for firefighters to contain and control, O’Connor said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. O’Connor hopes to hear back from the state’s fire investigator by Friday.

Firefighters told the Free Lance that the front room of the house was waist-deep in clothes, making it difficult to maneuver and keep the blaze from reigniting.

Mike Chambless, Hollister’s code enforcer, said the city has asked the household to clean up its act in the past.

The city had warned the residents of the household about the improperly stored junk and debris in and around the home, Chambless said.

“We had a hearing about it two months ago,” Chambless said.

Resident Anna Wineman stood behind yellow police tape watching smoke billow out of the home at 9:30am, almost two hours after the fire began.

“I just want my parrot,” Wineman said.

Her parrot, Ponchita, was in the front room when the blaze started.

“It was 7:30 in the morning,” Wineman said. “We were all sleeping.”

Firefighters were unable to rescue the bird.

Two other birds, two rabbits and several dogs were rescued from the home.

Rene Gomez Reyna, 74, who owns the home, stood in his driveway among wet piles of clothes and stuffed animals after speaking with investigators.

Reyna said he was awake when the blaze started, getting ready to take his granddaughter to Ladd Lane School.

“Everything’s OK,” Reyna said. “Everybody’s OK.”

The family will stay with one of Reyna’s daughters in Hollister. Reyna said he had homeowner’s insurance.

The Hollister Fire Department and San Benito County Fire Department responded to the blaze at 7:53am, Hollister Police Capt. Bob Brooks said. The Hollister Police Department had taped off the entire 1000 block of Victoria Avenue until it was clear that the fire was not criminal in origin.

After starting in a carport, the fire quickly spread to the home, O’Connor said. Neighbors woke the residents, who were able to make it to safety.

O’Connor said 17 Hollister firefighters were on scene to battle the blaze, with an additional four from the county led by Battalion Chief Curt Itson.

“Fortunately for us this happened during the shift change,” O’Connor said.

The captain added that the crew ending its shift had responded to five calls between midnight and 6am Tuesday.

“Both stations were pretty well beat,” O’Connor said.

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