One hundred thousand dollars is the South Pasadena Fire Department’s conservative preliminary estimate for the damage done by a 4th of July fire at two houses in the 400 block of Hawthorne Street.
And despite the date, fireworks have been ruled out as the cause, Fire Captain Kris Saxon told the South Pasadenan News. He said while the cause has not been determined, investigators have also ruled out the possibility that embers from last week’s firework display at the high school 3,000 feet to the southeast were responsible. Speculation on that was driven in part by the fact the fire apparently started within about an hour of the end of Fourth of July Festival of Balloons finale.
Saxon said it appears the fire began in or on the driveway near a set of plastic trashcans at the north end of a driveway between the homes, which while separate are attached by a room beyond the bins forming a U-shaped configuration.
The fire spread to the outside walls of the U and then into the engine compartment of a Toyota Corolla that was parked in the driveway. It crawled up the eaves of the eastern wall but most of the smoke came from burning along the north wall and along the western wall, where the fire penetrated the attic.
Witnesses saw flames and reported large amounts of billowing smoke pouring from the roofs of both homes and from a large tree between them. Firefighters used chain saws to cut branches from the tree.
Saxon said city police arrived at the scene first and, with a fire extinguisher and help from a neighbor with a garden hose, were able knock down much of the blaze. The Fire Department made its first attack on the burning vehicle before realizing flame was spreading to the surrounding walls and breaching the attic the of western house.
Twenty-five fire personnel joined the battle, including eight from Pasadena, six from South Pasadena, and four each from San Marino and Alhambra. They were joined by two fire investigators who happened to be doing a fireworks patrol nearby.
Personnel entered the western home and began pulling down the ceiling before making their way through the scuttle hole into the attic, where they were able to extinguish the flames. “It charred the attic pretty good but luckily, we were able to contain it to one area there over the bathroom and garage,” Saxon said.
There were no injuries. Neighbors said all known residents, including one family with children, were able to get out, including a pet dog.
A final report on the fire is expected in a matter of weeks.