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Brandy Fernandez was in her kitchen at 1165 LeBrun, near Churn Creek Road and Hartnell Avenue, preparing for a family dinner. Her husband Hector was in the garage at the front of the house when they both heard an explosion at the back of the duplex at about 2:50 p.m.
“It was loud,” Hector Fernandez said. “As soon as I heard the explosion I went in and yelled for my wife and kids.” The children, ages 4, 6, 7 and 8 years old were all safe, but a family cat may have been lost to the fast moving blaze.
Next door neighbor Steve Alvarez had been in the bathroom trimming his hair when he heard the blast.
“Right away I could smell smoke through our vents, like something was on fire. I yelled to my wife (Maria), I saw the smoke and flames and I yelled to get the kids out.”
Stunned members of both the Alvarez and Fernandez families said they had no time to get any belongings. There was only enough time to get their children together and run before the apartments became engulfed in flames and thick black smoke could be seen for miles. The occupants said they will be relying on family members for a safe place to stay the night. Neither family had renter’s insurance and could not comment on what they would do next, they said.
When firefighters arrived on the scene, the duplex was approximately 50% involved in flames, Battalion Chief Lauderdale said. He reported one firefighter injury that was heat related, and no injuries to the homes’ occupants.
In the backyard, a 5-gallon propane bottle could be seen and appeared to have exploded. But Lauderdale said he could not comment on the source of the blaze, which was still under investigation.
The department’s Dean Herzberg is handling the investigation, “but it is much too early to answer to the exact cause,” Lauderdale said.
The damage to the two structures is estimated at $250,000 and $50,000 to property.
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