An apartment fire in San Rafael’s Canal neighborhood displaced a family of six Saturday morning, but nobody was injured, fire officials said.
The blaze took place at a 43-unit complex at 220 Canal St. and was minimized thanks in part to the apartment complex manager who notified the family and a dredge tugboat that sprayed water on the second-floor balcony before firefighters arrived, said San Rafael Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Buscher.
Fire Chief Christopher Gray said the initial source of the fire was barbecue embers from a cookout Friday night. An investigation is ongoing, he said.
Firefighters were dispatched at 9:34 a.m. to the canal-front complex and arrived at about 9:40 a.m. to the backside of an apartment complex. Buscher said the spot was down a long driveway about 500-600 feet from the nearest fire hydrant, causing a brief challenge for those first at the site.
The Brandy Bar, a tug that is taking part in a dredging project overseen by the city of San Rafael and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was working in the area and noticed the smoke. The tug operator was the first to spray water on the second-floor balcony, Buscher said.
"They were able to put a hose on it and hold the fire down for us," he said. "They didn't extinguish it but they kept it in check and contained until we could make quick work of it."
Gray said 18 firefighters fought the blaze, which caused about $30,000 in damage.
Buscher credited apartment manager Noel Funes for seeing the smoke and quickly evacuating the family. Firefighters also notified nearby residents to get out, and the American Red Cross is coming to the family's aid, Buscher said.
The fire was put out in about 10 minutes and firefighters worked to ventilate the apartment to make sure no flames were within the walls, Gray said. After the fire was extinguished, firefighters went through the 70,000-square-foot complex with management to check other smoke detectors.
The battery had been removed from the apartment's smoke detector, Gray said.
"It was not hard-wired, as required by local ordinance," Buscher said. "The lesson is not to disable your smoke detector."
Gray said the all homeowners should check smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector batteries while they change their clocks back one hour tonight.
Also, make sure to wet down barbecue coals and place them in a metal container far from any combustibles, Gray added.