SPFD: Reported blaze is water dispenser fire that burned out on its own

April 15, 2011
Santa Paula News

What was reported as a structure fire was found to be a water dispenser unit that had caught fire and burned out on its own, but left the house filled with smoke even hours later.

The incident, according to Santa Paula Fire Capt. Steve Lazenby, was reported Monday, April 11 at 3:44 p.m.

Santa Paula Fire Engines 81 and 82 as well as Ventura County Fire Engine 26 and Santa Paula Police were dispatched the call of a structure fire in the 1200 block of Laurel Road. Although there was nothing showing when emergency responders arrived at the single-story house, Lazenby said, “The report to dispatch was from a child that had come home to find the house filled with smoke.”

The house had been unoccupied all day and there were no pets in the house that might have been overcome or killed by the smoke. The house was still filled with smoke as firefighters began their investigation, and Lazenby said firefighters suited up in protective gear and wore breathing apparatus to enter the home.

“The smoke was black and the interior was cold and the entire inside of the house was covered in black soot,” said Lazenby. “A quick interior search was done to locate the source of the smoke, utilizing” image sensing equipment as well as a visual search.

Lazenby said eventually a “bulk water cooler/dispenser was found on the floor of the kitchen completely burned...  and cold.” All other additional responding units were cancelled as firefighters investigated their find.

Lazenby said, “The plastic five-gallon water container was laying on its side a foot or two from the cooler and still had a couple of gallons of water in it,” and the area around the cooler was dry with no sign of spilled water. The metal parts of the dispenser were charred and, Lazenby said, “The plastic parts were melted into a puddle on the floor,” the curtains behind the unit burned and melted, and the wall and wood floor burned around the cooler.

In addition, the electrical plug was burned and charred and the circuit to the unit had tripped. “The whole area was cold, indicating that the fire had happened a considerable time before the structure fire call was made,” noted Lazenby. The residents also reported “that they had just replaced all of the curtains in the house with curtains that are fire resistant, and only a small portion of the curtains involved in the fire had melted and charred.”

When firefighters entered the home, Lazenby said, “at least three smoke detectors were sounding.” Firefighters cleared the house of smoke using the ventilation unit.

The only damage found was to the water cooler, curtains and adjacent areas, although the home sustained smoke damage. Lazenby said the fire was determined to be accidental and related to mechanical failure of the water cooler/dispenser.

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