Joshua Silverblatt, 12, was watching the Steven Universe cartoon in his Central Valley living room just after noon on Tuesday when his father yelled from upstairs, “Get dressed and get out of the house!”
His father, Roger Silverblatt, had heard similar shouts behind their house, as flames erupted from a Shuit Place house partly behind theirs. From the back, Josh could see flames on one side of that house.
“Let’s check out what’s happening,” his father said, and the family drove around the corner.
Police had blocked off the street with “caution tape,” Josh said, and about three minutes later the fire department arrived, taking another two minutes to get water out, he estimated.
“By that time the house was mostly destroyed and collapsed,” said Josh.
Meanwhile, the house next door caught fire. Josh saw smoke coming from a vent at the top of the house, and then the front ignited. The Woodbury Fire Department was joined by mutual aid departments, but the fire moved fast.
“We saw the flames and smoke, and by the time we drove around the block, the house was a charcoal briquette,” said Roger. “You never think this will happen to you, and then it does.”
“The second house wasn’t fully charred, but you couldn’t live there,” said Josh. “They were peeling off the roof shingles when we went back.”
He spoke to a man he thought to be in his thirties who said he had been living in the first house for a year. He had taken one cat out with him, but the other cat had not come when he called and had not reappeared. Residents of the second house had been on vacation, Josh said.
About five blocks away, Woodbury Town Supervisor Tom Burke had heard the fire whistle from his house.
“When I opened the door, there was smoke. I thought the fire was down the street,” he said. “Those homes are almost 100 years old, and they’re close together.”
He noted that the current Woodbury water moratorium that prohibits outdoor water use is intended to save water for fire emergencies, as wells are being rehabilitated and rain is sparse.
Both houses were completely destroyed, he said. Cause of the fire is not known.
We saw the flames and smoke, and by the time we drove around the block, the house was a charcoal briquette. - Roger Silverblatt