Charter Oak St. Fire Cause Deemed Electrical

The burned-out interior of 708 Charter Oak St. after a devastating fire that started there left two famlies displaced from two houses. Photo by Skye Hannah

The South Pasadena Fire Department has determined that the cause of a blaze that destroyed two homes on Charter Oak Street on Aug. 21 was electrical in nature.

No injuries were reported to occupants or firefighters, and both families have been displaced.

“We know it’s an electrical short,” SPFD Fire and Arson Investigator John Papadakis told the Review.

“It started in the bathroom, underneath the floorboard of the bathroom, but we can’t pinpoint for sure which wire is the culprit, and why that wire failed and where that wire was going to or anything like that.”

The homeowner, Denise Durrett at 708 Charter Oak St., had previously shared with the Review that she had heard a sound in the bathroom and found the wall covered in flames when she investigated. Papadakis noted that despite her immediate use of a fire extinguisher, the fire was already too involved to be contained.

“At that point, the fire is way too big for a small home extinguisher,” said Papadakis.

Papadakis saluted again the efforts of 11-year-old Ella Durrett, who was in the home at the time and immediately called 911 when the fire was discovered. He noted that the “early activation of 911 really helped save lives and save the other houses around.”

Despite several departments’ efforts to save the adjacent home at 700 Charter Oak St., he said, that house was already too heated and “ready to go” from the arching flames.

“If it had been any later, then a third house or maybe even the brush and the vegetation in the back could have gone up,” said Papadakis.

Should residents find themselves in a position to tackle a blaze with their own fire extinguisher, the fire department station provides free community training on best use practice, according to Papadakis. Residents may stop by at any time to ask for guidance.

He recommended residents remember “PASS,” which stands for “Pull, Aim, Squeeze and Sweep.’’ The first step is to pull the pin of the extinguisher, aim at the base of the fire, squeeze the handle of the extinguisher and then sweep back and forth from left to right.

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