When Jay Brousseau realized his kitchen was in flames and the heat was intense enough to melt the paint off the walls, he did what people wouldn’t normally do: He ran back.
Fortunately, Brousseau escaped a second time without a scratch, his beloved 1965 Gibson Les Paul electric guitar tucked under his arms.
But the same cannot be said for Brousseau’s North Humboldt Street apartment, which he and his wife just moved into a month ago.
The apartment caught fire around 10 a.m. Wednesday, and fire officials were able to contain it quickly enough that it didn’t spread to other apartments, said San Mateo Fire Department acting Battalion Chief Jeff Barile. But nearly everything in the Brousseaus’ apartment suffered fire, heat, smoke and chemical damage.
Brousseau and his wife were still in shock as they stood with fire officials outside their apartment Wednesday morning.
“We just bought all this new stuff, we’d just been unpacking,” said Irene Brousseau, still in her scrubs from her job at a Daly City doctor’s office, where she’d gotten the call that her home was on fire.
Barile said officials believe the fire was caused by oil frying on the stove, but Jay Brousseau said he had made breakfast earlier and left the pan in the sink.
He said he’d left the house after breakfast on an errand and only came home again to iron his clothes before work. He was walking out of the bathroom when he heard loud popping noises, “like gunshots,” coming from the kitchen, he said.
He said that when he walked into the kitchen, he saw the kitchen wall was on fire and flames were flying out of the stove vent.
“I tried to put it out with a towel, but the smoke was too much,” he said.
He ran to his neighbors’ doors to evacuate them — but not before running back in to get his beloved guitar.
Standing outside his apartment building with his wife, waiting for Red Cross to arrive, he smiled and shrugged.
“I’ve had it since I was 13,” he said sheepishly.