For the second evening in a row, the firefighters in the station on Tice Valley Boulevard were the first responders to a scary fire with potential to run up hillsides and spread to nearby homes.
For the second evening in a row, people were rendered homeless in multiple living units but — remarkably and fortunately — no injuries were reported among residents or firefighters.
The American Red Cross was looking after the shelter needs of 13 people from eight units.
The crew from Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, Station 3, responded to Friday's fire on Running Springs Road, around 6 p.m. The road overlooks the golf course that the Rossmoor retirement community is built around.
"It was an inferno," said Ramon Carreno. "Let's just put it that way."
Carreno lives in an adjacent unit 100 feet down the hill from the eight-unit building at 1209 Running Springs Road, which was a total loss to the fire. Carreno's Saturn was parked in the carport of 1209, which was heavily damaged. The 1209 building had a carport running the length of the building with two stories of living units above fronted by a wide porch — all charred now.
The flamers were "yellow, dark orange," Carreno said. "I was surprised to see how fast it can go."
A Kia Optima in the parking lot of the 1209 building, about 50 feet from the carports, had a partially melted bumper and taillight.
Carreno first saw the flames while standing on the patio of his building slightly below 1209. As that fire threatened to leap into the high branches of tall pines between the two buildings, the firefighters ordered people from Carreno's building back away from the patio. The fire crews were "quick," said Carreno, in spraying the pines and preventing a further spread.
Carreno said he thought the fire began in a corner unit, closest to Running Springs Road.
Angela Logsdon, who lives in a building across Running Springs Road from 1209, followed up a golf outing at the Rossmoor course with a barbecue in picnic grounds near the course. Shortly after 6 p.m., she looked up toward her home and said, "Is that fog or is that smoke?"
She and boyfriend Jerry Severance drove their golf cart to the bottom of Running Springs Road, where emergency personnel held up the vehicle. Logsdon got out and hiked up the hill to check on her unit, which was OK. By the time she got there, "You couldn't see any flames (at 1209) and they were putting water on it."
"These buildings are 40 years old," said Severance. "The wood is like dry timber."
An estimated 40 firefighters and 12 engines stuck around to keep water on the smoldering 1209 building. Periodically there were persistent resignations of timbers eaves that required concentrated water.
All 13 residents got out under their own power, and no injuries were reported, said Lewis Broschard, fire marshal for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District. It was a three-alarm fire.
The cause was uncertain. Broschard said there were eyewitness reports of an interior remodeling project in one of the units that might have been the origin. "But we haven't been able to get in and confirm that," said Broschard at 8:20 p.m., who said a fire investigator would look at the evidence in that unit.
The buildings had sprinkler systems in the ground-floor carports. The construction also had a common attic above multiple units.
"The fire was able to get up in the attic and run," said Broschard.
Fire crews successfully defended the 1217 building that's only 15 feet from the totaled 1209 building. The 1217 building had some damage to the porch rails and beams on the second and third floors.
The area is reeling with the Rossmoor fire coming 24 hours after, a couple of miles away, that evicted six people from two homes.