Explosion sparks two-alarm fire

Kelly Shaw was at home with her two children late Tuesday morning when she heard a loud explosion — her floors shook and a black cloud of smoke appeared outside her window.

“I thought it was an earthquake, but when I saw the black smoke and the fire alarm went off, I knew something was going on,” said Shaw, who lives in Libra Apartments at 150 Harrison Ave. in Redwood City.

The explosion Shaw heard came from an old car in the carport of the two-story apartment building. The blast started a two-alarm fire that damaged seven apartments, displaced 15 adults and five children, and took 43 firefighters to control, according to Redwood City Fire Department Battalion Chief Geoffrey Balton.

“The fire was lapping from the carport to the two apartments above, so they had to attack it from both sides at the same time, and it also got into the walls — that’s why it took so much personnel,” he said.

The fire started at 11:21 a.m. and was under control by 12:10 p.m. One firefighter was treated at the scene for heat exhaustion, but no one else was injured.

“If this was during the night, we’d have hundreds of residents evacuated, but it was during the day, so this was fortunate for us,” Balton said.

Redwood City firefighters received help from several other southern Peninsula fire departments, the battalion chief said.

Balton said the cause of the explosion was under investigation, but he thought it was “probably accidental.”

Resident Ann Langendorf, who lives directly above the carport, said the car was a non-operable silver Jaguar that had been parked for months and occasionally provided shelter to someone. Balton could not confirm the details about the car and said the investigation may take several days.

Shaw said she was not worried about the smoke damage to her apartment because she recently purchased renter’s insurance.

“I’m so happy I got it — my best friend’s apartment caught on fire and all her things were destroyed, so I decided it’s really worth it for the peace of mind,” she said.

svasilyuk@sfexaminer.com

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