Santa Paula Times

Ventura County, Ventura City and Fillmore Fire departments responded Friday to a fire on East Santa Paula Street, an event that occurred when both Santa Paula Fire engines were on medical calls. Five people were displaced by the fire which occurred on East Santa Paula Street; two people suffered from minor smoke inhalation.

Five people displaced after
E. Santa Paula Street candle fire

February 04, 2015
Santa Paula News

Five people were displaced Friday after a house fire officials believe was started by a candle left burning in a bedroom.

According to Santa Paula Fire Captain Jerry Byrum, the January 30 blaze was reported about 1:45 p.m. as a structure fire in the 1000 block of East Santa Paula Street.

The call came in at a time when both SPFD Engines were responding to separate medical calls.

“We got a 1:37 p.m. medical call on East Pleasant Street, then our engine at Fire Station 82 got a call about 1:45 p.m.” for a separate medical emergency, followed by the fire call at 1:47 p.m.

“So, while we were both on our medical call two minutes later the structure fire comes out... and at that point we’re both tied up,” but Byrum said engines were dispatched from Fillmore City, Ventura City and Ventura County fire departments.

“The automatic mutual aid system we have is great,” as it dispatches the “closest available resources... “ no matter what the agency.

And just seven minutes after the fire call another medical call came in for Santa Paula’s already busy firefighters.

But SPFD Engine 81 had wrapped up its medical call and was able to respond to the fire scene and arrived a few minutes after it was extinguished by the mutual response agencies.

Byrum said Acting Asst. Fire Chief Dustin Lazenby was the first on the fire scene and initially fought the fire at the single-family residence with a garden hose.  

“It appeared to be a small fire in a bedroom and he tried to knock it down with a garden hose,” and although Lazenby was successful, by the time the first engine arrived on the scene the blaze had rekindled.

“A firefighter can’t make entry into the structure if they are alone, so Dustin had to fight the fire strictly outside the structure,” said Byrum. 

After the responding engines arrived on scene and were able to make entry into the house it was only a matter of minutes to put out the fire.

Two adults and three children were displaced and two of them suffered minor smoke inhalation from the fire, which caused an estimated $20,000 in damage to the structure and $6,000 to the contents.  

The house, noted Byrum, was red-tagged and the residents cannot return until repairs are made.

The fire, he added, “Started from an unattended candle,” not an uncommon cause of fire and one that can be easily avoided.

“There are a lot of different scenarios of how a candle can start a fire,” ranging from breakage of a candleholder from the heat of melted wax to a candle being left too close to combustibles.

“We ruled out electrical cords,” although there were many being used in the home and, “Based on what an occupant told us it was pretty evident that it was a candle that was left burning in the bedroom.”

The candle, said Byrum, was on top of a crowded shelving system next to a bed.

“If you burn a candle you definitely don’t want clutter around you but you also have to blow them out before you leave the room, just practice good fire safety... that’s the bottom line.”

Although candle fires are not unusual, Byrum said the circumstances of Friday’s fire - notably both local engines being tied up on medical response assignments when the structure fire was reported - certainly was.

“It was a weird chain of events,” that Byrum does not believe has happened before in his almost 27-year career with the SPFD.

“I never thought I would see the day that this would happen but that’s why we have the mutual aid agreements we have with the surrounding agencies... “