Family of 6 Displaced by Canal Apartment Fire

The manager of the complex saw smoke and rushed up to notify the residents, and a dredge tug was credited with aiding the fire department.

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.

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Shelley Champine November 03, 2012 at 07:13 PM
I'd really like to hear more about the "Displaced Family of 6" mentioned in the title (and then not really talked about in the rest of the article). I'm glad they are unhurt but where will they go now? Is anyone setting up a relief fund? I really hope there is a follow up since it's very typical of Marin to report obligatory news stories about the Canal Neighborhood but not really give a "face" to the people who live there and their struggles.
Peggy Butler November 04, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Here's a link to the amazing YouTube video of the fire being fought by a citizen on a barge: http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=VGcbJf4BTLg&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DVGcbJf4BTLg I hope our fire chief praised the tug & barge operators efforts, as well. This was a great and very effective effort on their part. That entire building could have gone up in flames...


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