Redwood City fire chars care home

Smoke detectors and a well-practiced evacuation plan were likely what saved the lives of seven developmentally disabled adults after their care facility caught fire Sunday.

Neighbor Gloria Maldonado first noticed smoke coming from the house at 124 Alameda de las Pulgas when she stepped outside her door shortly before 7 a.m. Sunday to pick up her newspaper. Staff at the Alameda House had begun evacuating the center’s seven residents, and a passer-by even helped one resident in a wheelchair, Maldonado said.

When firefighters arrived on the scene, “they were already being evacuated,” said Redwood City Fire Department Battalion Chief Jim Skinner. “They did a fantastic job of getting people out.”

Maldonado took them into her house while firefighters arrived. “Theywere frightened, but once they got some hot chocolate and coffee they were better,” she said.

That meant that as the Fire Department called for second, third and fourth alarms, they could focus on tackling the blaze that consumed the one-story house’s attic, rather than on rescuing residents, Skinner said.

Thirteen fire engines and four ladder trucks responded to the fire, including six battalion chiefs from the Redwood City Fire Department, Cal Fire, the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, the San Mateo Fire Department, the Foster City Fire Department, the Woodside Fire Protection District and the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department.

Firefighters had the blaze completely under control by 8:36 a.m., and it was extinguished before 10 a.m., Skinner said. The house’s attic was gutted while some of the downstairs areas suffered water damage.

Alameda House, owned by the nonprofit organization Parca, is a residential care facility with space for up to eight disabled adults, according to facility manager Danielle Richardson. Their disabilities run the gamut from autism and mild mental retardation to muteness.

For now, they will stay in a temporary facility while Parca examines whether to rebuild the house on Alameda or move the residents elsewhere permanently, Richardson said.

The fire is also taking its toll on the residents emotionally, especially because they were looking forward to Christmas.

“They’re emotional, but we’re taking good care of them,” Richardson said. “This is a tremendous loss for them, but we’re trying to keep the holiday spirit up.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, though it does not appear to be suspicious, Skinner said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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