An elderly lady whose house was filled to the gills with books, antiques and other collectibles watched much of it go up in flames Wednesday.
The unidentified woman was treated for smoke inhalation and burns on her hands, and has lost nearly all her belongings in what is believed to have been an accidental fire, San Mateo Fire Department Battalion Chief Joe Novelli said.
Novelli said they did not find any animals in the house, which he said did not have any functional smoke detectors. Neighbors said they worried about the fate of her many cats.
At 10:39 a.m., a house fire was reported at Ramona Street near East Poplar Avenue. When fire officials arrived three minutes later, they saw smoke pouring out of the house, Novelli said.
Locked out of the house, firefighter crews had to break down the door to get inside. Other firefighters climbed to the roof and cut a hole in the roof with chain saws.
The makeshift chimney allowed the smoke and heat to escape and the crews to go inside, Novelli said.
The fire, which was mostly concentrated in the bedroom, was extinguished just in the nick of time, he said.
“Another three to five minutes, the whole house would have gone up,” he said.
Novelli said the woman lost most everything in her house. He said the house was piled with books, papers, furniture and other highly flammable items. To make sure none of it was still smoldering, fire officials had to haul much ofit out onto the front lawn and put a sprinkler on it.
Guy Goldberg, who was in the house next door when the fire broke out, said the woman seemed very shaken as she stood across the street and watched smoke billow out of her home.
“I came over with the hose and we were going to try to put it out ourselves, but it got a lot bigger than that,” he said.
Another neighbor, Shamir Ascencio, worried about what might happen to the woman who’s lost so much.
“She shouldn’t be living alone. She needs somebody to live with her,” she said. “And all the cats, what will happen to all her cats?”