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UPDATE: Fire Ignites at Apartment Complex on W. Hamilton Avenue

Investigators say that an unattended stove top caused a fire to break out at an apartment complex late Sunday morning. Damages are estimated at $500,000 and 10-12 people have been displaced.

This article was updated at 4:06 p.m.

It took 52 minutes for San Jose city and Santa Clara County firefighters to extinguish a fire that broke out at an apartment complex at 1017 W. Hamilton Avenue Sunday, according to Dennis Johnsen, the chief investigator with the Santa Clara County Fire Department.

"We had 42 personnel out there responding," Johnsen said. "This went from a full first alarm fire to a second alarm fire because the fire spread into the attic."

The first call of the fire came into the county department at 11:44 a.m., Johnsen said.

The complex is made up of four two-story apartments. The genesis of the blaze, Johnsen said, was Apt. #2. Responding firefighters found flames coming out of both the lower and upper floors of this apartment.

"A resident of Apt. #2 was cooking on an electric stove and left the stove to go upstairs to answer the phone," Johnsen explained. "When he returned, he found that a fire had spread."

That man, who Johnsen did not identify, was taken to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center with burns to his chest and feet that he sustained as he fell while trying to take the cooking pan that caught on fire outside.

"I don't believe his injuries are life threatening, but he might have inhaled hot gases and air, so it will be nip and tuck for a while, but so far so good," Johnsen said of the man's condition.

The flames from the stove got into the apartment's vents, Johnsen explained, rising upward towards the attic. Firefighters cut holes in the other apartments' ceilings to make sure the fire hadn't spread into their attics.

One wall of neighboring Apt. #3 is gone, Johnsen said, and the roof of the complex sustained damage due to the flames coming from Apt. #2's attic as well.

"Apt. #2 is heavily damaged from the fire," Johnsen said. "The other apartments have a lot of water damage."

The entire building has been deemed uninhabitable, he explained, leaving the complex's 10-12 residents displaced. The American Red Cross is working on finding housing for six of those residents. 

The cost of the damage, Johnsen said, is estimated at $500,000.

The shut down W. Hamilton Avenue until about 3:15 p.m. but the road has been reopened, Johnsen said.

Campbell Patch will provide any updates on the incident as soon as they become available. 

Michelle Fitzsimmons April 23, 2012 at 06:24 PM
thanks for your insight, susie. i can't imagine that firefighters wouldn't respond to any fire, no matter what size, without the utmost urgency. it's good no one was seriously hurt and i know the firefighters kept this fire from spreading any further than it did.
Mayra Flores de Marcotte April 24, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Hey Susie! Thanks for sharing your first-hand account on this. Glad to see how many trucks and engines showed up to this. As you said, Campbell Police and the fire stations really do book it to make it there in a short amount of time and from the time that I have been covering Campbell (nearly two years now) this has been what I've seen happen with fires. Thanks again for taking the time to comment!
Mayra Flores de Marcotte April 24, 2012 at 08:41 PM
B Willis, Wow. Thanks for sharing your first-hand account on this. Not sure what exactly it was that you witnessed. As Michelle said, maybe these vehicles weren't the initial ones called out to the fire, but either way, definitely an unnerving scene.
gbmsites April 30, 2012 at 07:06 PM
A friend of mine was seriously injured and in the burn unit. He went through one surgery and is getting ready to go for another one... he had major 3rd degree burns and had it not been for him, those other tenants would've never gotten out as he's the one that went door to door saying their was a fire and to get out now. All the while he was on fire and didn't even know it. He sustained major injuries, although the news won't mention how bad it really was.
Mayra Flores de Marcotte May 01, 2012 at 12:30 AM
We are so sorry to hear that! Please feel free to email us at mayra.marcotte@patch.com if you would like to further speak with us about your friend and his actions. We only report the information that is disclosed to the media, so we were unaware of his injuries.

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