Thursday evening blaze in First Mutual started in residential electrical box
By Sam Richards
(Friday, June 4, 12:50 p.m.): The residents of four co-op units off Golden Rain Road were displaced in a two-alarm blaze Thursday night that started in a residential electrical box, a fire official said.
A resident of an adjoining unit at 2925 Golden Rain Road was taken to the hospital with complaints of breathing trouble but was back at her home Friday morning.
Steve Hill, a spokesman for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, said firefighters were called at 6:21 p.m. Thursday to a report of fire at one of the upper-level units in this multi-unit co-op building.
“This was a second-alarm (incident) owing to the threat to neighboring units and structures, and the possible need for evacuations or rescues,” Hill said in an email.
More than 40 firefighters in four trucks and eight engines, plus four ambulances and their crews, responded. The last firefighters were finished at the scene by about 9:30 p.m. Thursday.
The fire, Hill said, started in an electrical box in the common wall between two units on the upper floor of the building, which is part of First Mutual. Witnesses said the flames spread to the roofs of both units. No specific cause had been established as of Friday morning.
The Red Cross helped a resident of one of the burned units with shelter, Hill said. A man at the other burned unit Friday morning said his parents were displaced but declined further comment.
Two co-op units underneath the burned units sustained water damage. One of them belongs to Gloria Sunshine, a seven-year Rossmoor resident who was at a Trails Club gathering at the Dollar picnic area Thursday night when another club member on hand got a phone call.
“They said, ‘Tell Sunshine her home is burning,’ … It wasn’t a joke, it was the real thing,” Sunshine recounted on Friday morning. “It sort of gave me indigestion.”
For Sunshine’s next-door neighbor Eda Brennan, it was another neighbor who pounded on her door, to tell her she smelled smoke.
“Then we saw the fire trucks and the firefighters,” Brennan said. “It got pretty busy here pretty fast.”
Sunshine said firefighters advised her not to spend the night at her home, but she slept on her porch. “It wasn’t too bad … I’m glad it’s almost summer.” She thinks she was able to save some of the flooring in her home by toweling up the water quickly.
On Friday morning, Brennan pointed out the signs of water damage on the ceiling above her dining room. She too stayed in her home Thursday night, in a guest room, where there is no apparent water damage.
Still, with the damage to her unit – which, like Sunshine’s, will likely to be without electricity for the foreseeable future – Brennan was coming to grips with the truth.
“I know I’m going to have to get out of here,” Brennan said.
But both Brennan and Sunshine were quick to see the silver lining. Both women were getting offers of various help, from meals to laundry, from people they had not met before.
“I’ve had 10 offers for places to sleep,” Sunshine said. One such offer, she said, was from a woman whom she didn’t know offering to let her use her co-op. “All these people from the building have been calling to help.”
Also grateful for her neighbors is Cynthia Berger, who has lived in the upper-floor unit next to the burned co-ops for only two weeks. She was the one taken to the hospital after having breathing problems from the smoke (she said she was fine Friday morning).
“The neighbors took in my cat when I was being taken to the hospital,” Berger said. “And we couldn’t have asked for a faster, more thorough response.”
Indeed, she and others praised the speed and thoroughness with which firefighters did their work.
The smell of smoke, along with the hum of giant fans, was pervasive in Berger’s home Friday morning. But she’s confident she’ll be able to stay in her home.
That’s not the case for Sunshine and Brennan, who on Friday were considering what their next steps will be. But both women were focusing squarely on the positive.
“You have to laugh, because if you don’t, you cry,” Brennan said.
Added Sunshine, “This year, with COVID, the politics, what’s a fire? It could have been so much worse. At least we have a roof to burn.”