Fire damaged a St. Helena home Tuesday morning, causing an estimated $25,000 to $40,000 in damage.
Firefighters were dispatched at 8:44 a.m. to a house fire in the 1800 block of Vineyard Avenue.
After seeing flames on the back porch, two neighbors, Maria Palacios and her sister-in-law, Gina Lugo, pushed into the house, yelling to wake up anyone sleeping in the house. The house was empty, but not the garage, where a man was sleeping.
Palacios recounted the story on Tuesday afternoon. Upon returning home after dropping their children off at school, the women saw the house on fire. Palacios told Lugo to call 9-1-1 and then she knocked on the front door and rang the doorbell, but Palacios said, “Nobody was coming out.”
She pushed the door hard to open it, and she said she thought someone might be home, “because there were cars parked in the front of the house.”
At the same time, a construction worker on a job site down the street heard the commotion, smelled the smoke and went to the back yard, where he used a garden hose to spray the roof and kept the fire under control until firefighters arrived.
“He saved the house,” said St. Helena Fire Chief John Sorensen. “He did a great job.”
Palacios and Lugo went throughout the house, banging and opening all the doors and calling out. They found a man sleeping in a bedroom in the garage. Palacios said he was sleeping heavily and only woke up when he heard the sirens from the firetrucks. He escaped by going out the side door of the garage.
The fire originated from a smoldering cigarette butt in a trash can on a side porch. The fire spread from the trash can to a couch and then up onto an overhanging porch and into the attic.
Palacios said when she opened the back door in the kitchen, she inhaled “a little bit of smoke” but paramedics came and she and Lugo were checked out and were released. “We’re really happy that everything’s fine and that guy is OK. And the two cats are OK. When they smelled smoke, they hid in the house, but they escaped,” Palacios said.