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House fire leaves woman, baby homeless

 
 
Tiffiney Lozano
Staff Writer
2/24/2010

A house fire last week, inadvertently caused by a property owner, has left a Blairsden women and her 14-month-old daughter homeless.

No injures were reported; however, the duplex unit located just off Bonta Street suffered significant damages.

According to Graeagle Fire Protection Chief Ed Ward, homeowner Steve Parks and Vincent Martinez, both of Portola, were spraying foam installation under the house, last Wednesday, Feb 17. The men were under the unit's hot water heater when the spray came in contact with the pilot light flame, causing the home to ignite said Chief Ward.

Parks confirmed in a phone interview that he was under the house at the time of the fire. At the time of interview the cause of fire was still under investigation.

Parks said there was no explosion, just a loud "poof," and then "whatever it was ignited." He said he quickly ran to the hardware store and bought two fire extinguishers and tried to put the fire out.

The fire department arrived on scene, and unable to go inside, put the fire down from the outside as quickly as possible. Battalion Chief Ivan Randall said firefighters were on fire watch all night, but by morning the fire was completely out.

One unit was completely destroyed, all personal belongings lost, while the adjoining apartment suffered mostly smoke and water damage.

According to Parks, both tenants had moved in recently. The destroyed unit was home to Shirley Spalinger, who had moved in a week ago with her baby.

Spalinger was not present when the fire broke out, and arrived to find her home engulfed in flames. There was no time to save anything. She was left with no food or clothing for her baby, not even medication for her mother, who was visiting from out of town.

Spalinger went to use the phone at nearby Mohawk Realty. Owner Jeannette Sasser reported the woman and her husband had recently adopted the baby. Shortly after the adoption, the husband passed away in August, leaving Spalinger alone with their new baby.

Sasser said the community felt awful for the victims, who were clearly "devastated," and pulled together to provide what little help it could.

Neighbors scrambled to find fire extinguishers and water hoses in the cold of winter to kill the flames. Sasser said a man who saw the flames from Johnsville came down to help.

Mike Boyd of Feather River Park provided a cabin for the women to sleep in that night, and the Red Cross provided a hotel the following night.

Chief Ward said his office would offer whatever support it could in the way of money or volunteers. The department will also accept any donations on behalf of the displaced woman and baby. Donations may be made by contacting Judy at 836-1340.

Parks said the Spalinger Family Support fund is also being set up through Portola Station Baptist Church. Donations of furniture, clothing or funds can be made by calling 832-4334.

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