UPDATE: Investigators determine cause of house fire was accidental – space heater ignited blaze that destroyed $750,000 home

Fire investigators with North County Fire have said the case of the house fire Sunday, Feb. 9, on Palomar Drive, was accidental and caused by a space heater being left on too close to combustible materials.

“We would like to remind the public to make sure when using a space heater indoors that they turn it off before going to sleep,” said NC Fire public information officer John Buchanan. “In addition, space heaters, when operating, should not be any closer than 30 inches to combustible material.”

(previous story, Mon. Feb. 10)

Home destroyed by fire on Palomar Drive valued at $750,000; North County Fire continues investigation into cause

Debbie Ramsey

Managing Editor

Early information has just been reported by North County Fire (NCF) regarding a home fire last night (Sunday, Feb. 9), in the 4500 block of Palomar Drive (near La Canada and South Mission Road).

According to NCF public information officer John Buchanan, the blaze broke out at approximately 7:30 p.m. and completely destroyed a 3,000 square foot split-level home, which was valued at $750,000.

“All four people inside the home got our safely with no injuries,” said Buchanan, who also stated that no firefighters were injured battling the blaze.

Neighbor Jon Monday, whose property adjoins the one that caught fire, said, “A big – no huge – thank you to the fire department. The house was surrounded by trees and could have lit up the whole neighborhood. Also, thank God, the air was still – a big wind would have been a disaster.”

Buchanan said the home was a complete loss, but a value has not yet been determined.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation this morning.

Oceanside Fire assisted North County Fire at the scene.

**Watch this site for updates on this story as they become available.***

11 Responses to "UPDATE: Investigators determine cause of house fire was accidental – space heater ignited blaze that destroyed $750,000 home"

  1. Scott Herman   February 10, 2014 at 10:28 am

    We live less than a half mile from the site. The panicked scream from my wife as she first saw the flames from our family room showed her concern was beyond just the property ablaze.

    Several neighbors heard what sounded like an explosion that drew their attention that direction. At one point the flames reached well over 50 feet, perhaps as high as 80 feet. It appeared that the ability to access the property from both directions with driveways off La Canada and Palomar was helpful as water streams criss-crossed the inferno.

    My thoughts and prayers go out to the family. My thanks to the responders who kept the fire contained.

  2. Jon Monday   February 10, 2014 at 10:32 am

    I can’t stress enough that the fire department saved the neighborhood – and it was dangerous on several levels. The house was surrounded by trees, and as the house was fully engulfed the propane tank exploded.

    The situation makes it clear the value of tile or steel roofs, with enclosed eves. Embers were in the air, but again the fire department had a huge ladder that was working below the fire, spraying the surrounding trees.

    All in all, I really appreciate the service the local fire departments provide for our safety.

  3. Reality Checker   February 10, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    My heart goes out to the family. I know first hand what that is like. My house burned to the ground at 3:00 am on the very day of my first wife’s funeral. I had lost her to diabetes two days before and I was going through her things and had it all laid out all over the living room and dining room table that night. Pictures, nic-nacks, little doilies she made, beadwork, arts and crafts, all kinds of things that I wanted to keep to remind me of her. I was up late because I couldn’t sleep. I went to bed at midnight or thereabouts, and had gotten up to use the bathroom and smelled smoke. By the time I got a couple of file drawers of imporant papers out, and a couple of cars moved away from the house it was fully engulfed. I lost all of my wife’s things, all of our pictures, everything on the morning of her funeral along with our two little dogs. I had to go to her funeral wearing a pair of borrowed denim jeans with holes in them, a tee-shirt, flip flops, and wasn’t able to even take a shower first. I went to her funeral smelling like smoke. I feel very badly for this family. I hope everyone got out ok and are ok physically. Emotionally, well, that’s a whole other matter. It’ll take a long while before they aren’t absolutely devastated about it. Take pictures of everything in your house. Video is even better. Just open all the cabinets and drawers and walk around with your phone or a video camera. Taking an inventory for the insurance company afterwards can be traumatic in itself. Even harder if you have to sit and try to think of everything you had afterwards, if you don’t take pics or at least make a list. Thoughts and prayers to the family.

  4. Michael Smyth   February 10, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Our family also lives very close to this once fine wooden home on La Canada, it had huge windows and was a work of art.

    the flames reached at least a hundred feet into the air above the trees threatening to catch a large cluster of very tall trees at the top of the hill.

    there was also a very very large and loud explosion from iam guessing the homes propane tank.

    thank god no one was hurt.

  5. SMOKE DETECTORS SAVE LIVES   February 10, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    I find it very interesting that there were four adults present, at the time of the fire. The report time was early in the evening. The home became fully engulfed in flames, within a short period of time. Although, the report stated that the adults were in another part of the house, were there smoke detectors, and did they work, to notify the occupants? It will be interesting to learn what the cause of the fire was, why it spread so quickly, and the response time of the firefighters. I am glad that there were no injuries and that the firefighters kept the fire from spreading to other homes. An exploding propane tank could have caused many fatalities.

  6. Lee   February 11, 2014 at 8:48 am

    Thank goodness everybody is alright!

  7. Reality Checker   February 12, 2014 at 9:22 am

    A house fire can fully engulf the structure in less than ten minutes. I know this personally. Once a window pops, or you run out an open door to escape, the fire is fed all the oxygen it needs to grow to the point that flames will be coming out of the roof toward the sky in less than five minutes. Thats why so many never make it out. It only takes a few short minutes to engulf a house.

  8. Howard Salmon   February 13, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    How long does it usually take to determine the cause? Who does the determination?

    VILLAGE NEWS REPLIES – It usually doesn’t take that long. We have repeatedly requested the information from the fire dept. Hopefully we will hear soon. Each fire agency has their own investigator/investigative team. North County Fire’s investigators are handling this one.
    Thank you, Debbie Ramsey, editor

  9. @nativeflowers   February 13, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    Thank you everyone for your stories and tips. I have learned some things here. Reality Checker, what an experience and so much loss all at one time. I am a proponent of a fire sprinkler system in the home that puts the fire out in the room where the fire is as well as working smoke detectors in all the required rooms and hallways and fire extinguishers, as well as having all the electrical inspected, storing all flammables and combustibles in a safe place. There is a relief value on our septic tank and the guy told me when it releases it will make a loud noise. It is scary how your neighbors can put you at such risk. Am grateful for the firefighters. If babies, children, elderly, disabled or pets are in the home, it is important that they can get out in time and are not lost. I also have 100 foot hoses at every hose bib with fire type spray nozzles. Well hydrated plants and trees will be less of a risk than those that are not. Thankful no life was lost in this fire.

  10. Preston   February 17, 2014 at 8:49 am

    What kind of Space Heater?

  11. Reality Checker   February 18, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    To #10: The kind of space heater that got too close to something combustible or flammable. It was probably was on and being ignored, and either got sat next to something combustible or someone threw a blanket or a towel next to it or over it and it caught on fire. Simple enough. Lots of people take space heaters for granted, and set them close to curtains, furniture, or let kids play around them and eventually something combustible gets thrown over it, or next to it, touches it for too long and WHOOF! Fire ignites, while no one is keeping an eye on it, so the fire grows beyond the incipient stage and into a free-burning fire that the homeowner cannot fight or put out. Its carelessness, inattention, and negligence that almost always leads to fires caused by space heaters. Simply following the manufactures instructions can, does, and will prevent generally all fires ignited by space heaters. Wise up, people.


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