Fire Kills California Family's Pets

BRENTWOOD -- Two dogs and a hamster perished in a fire at a a single-story home in Brentwood early this morning.

Four adults and two children living at an Almond Drive rental home escaped serious injury after an explosion in their back yard shortly after 6 a.m., said Battalion Chief Jake Gonzalez of the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District. One person was treated for smoke inhalation and taken to a hospital, he said.

The house had heavy fire damage, he said.

Gonzalez said firefighters controlled the blaze within 20 minutes and contained within an hour. Though the cause is unknown, he said it appeared to have started behind the house. A utility trailer some 30 to 40 feet behind the house was partially engulfed when crews arrived, he said.

Kelly Knapp, who lived at the 1950s home with her parents, husband and two children, said the family escaped just before the fire engulfed their home.

"I heard popping sounds and we just got outside," she said.

Knapp said her family was living with her parents, Jim and Linda Knapp, to try to save money to buy a home.

Knapp's 6-year-old son Zion Comb's hamster was later rescued by a firefighter from his bedroom, but his 4-year-old sister's hamster died. Knapp said her own dog got out of the house, but her parents' dogs perished in the fire.

Marlene Cook, who lives three houses away, said she and her husband, John, heard hissing sounds followed by an explosion.

"I ran outside in my nightie," she said. "By the time I got up here, the whole house was engulfed and a neighbor was hosing down the van. I was scared to death, but it appeared they had gotten out and were down the street."

Next-door neighbor Marcy Atoigue said she heard screaming and "little pops."

"Kelly came over and the kids were standing on the front porch when a tall tank -- a smoking (air) compressor landed in my front yard," Atoigue said.

It was unclear if the mangled tank had anything to do with the explosion. Gonzalez said firefighters were still trying to determine the cause of the fire.

Six fire engines, including crews from Brentwood, Oakley, Knightsen and Bethel Island, helped, Gonzalez said.