Photos by Steve Whitmore

At just after noon Wednesday, a small fire broke out in the ground floor of a South Pasadena apartment, filling the unit with heavy smoke and threatening the lives of a dog and a cat.

The call came in at 12:32 for the blaze at 651 Grand Ave. that was caused by a malfunctioning floor heater, according to fire officials.

Upon arrival, firefighters fought through the heavy smoke that afforded “zero visibility” inside the unit but still were able to discover and rescue a dog and a cat. The animals are doing fine, officials said.

“Our first arriving unit did report heavy smoke showing from the downstairs unit,” said So Pas Fire Chief Paul Riddle. “Our units were assisted by the city of Pasadena, the city of Alhambra, the city of San Gabriel and the city of San Marino. Our units made entry into the bottom unit and did find a working fire on the first floor that appears to be around a floor heater of some type. It took about 10 minutes to get a knock-down on the fire. We did a primary search and there was no one in the apartment and we did a search of the second floor and there was no extension of the fire in any part of the apartment complex.”

One of the reasons for the rapid control of the blaze was the response time, Riddle said.

“We had a relatively quick knock down because we were able to get here quick, so it looks like our arrival time was about four minutes, which again is an important component for us getting a fire out.”

The official cause is a malfunctioning floor heater and the estimated damage is under $10,000, all connected to smoke, according to Riddle.

“The fire was kind of around the floor heater area but we are going to be investigating once the smoke clears out,” he said.

Apparently, a passerby saw smoke coming from the apartment and notified the authorities. There was no one home at the time of the fire. except the two animals.

“It goes back to if you see something say something,” Riddle said. “That really helped us out to get on the scene early and knock down the fire.”

Three engine companies, two truck companies, three battalion chiefs and a rescue ambulance responded to the blaze, Riddle said.

“That’s what we get on a first-alarm assignment here in South Pasadena,” he said. “We have such a good agreement with our neighboring agencies. That’s what we get.”

Riddle estimate about 25 firefighters responded to the blaze. Also, there have been no reported injuries connected to the fire.

Moreover, late Wednesday, the South Pasadena Firefighters Association were planning on donating $500 to the displaced family to help with temporary lodging or anything else they might need.

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Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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