Larry Reeves escaped with only a pair of shorts when flames engulfed his apartment complex Saturday afternoon.
The 27-year-old was just one of more than 20 people displaced from the Bordeaux House Apartments on Rivera Lane in Atascadero because of the fire, according to the American Red Cross.
Around 5 p.m. Saturday, Reeves and his brother Travis stood in front of their SUV with the few belongings they had salvaged. Nearby, residents from the seven other apartment units affected by the fire sat watching crews mop up what used to be their homes.
Eight of them planned to sleep in hotels Saturday night; the rest found other temporary shelter, said Paul Deis, director of emergency services for the Red Cross’ Central Coast region.
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The towering fire began about 1 p.m. Saturday, according to the Atascadero Fire Department. It took crews an hour to get it fully under control.
The cause is unknown and under investigation, according to Atascadero fire Chief Kurt Stone. He said eight units were affected: Four were destroyed, two damaged and two saved.
Patty McCann, 42, was smoking a cigarette on her second-story balcony when she heard a boom. She asked her two sons, ages 13 and 14, whether they had heard the noise, and then she saw flames shooting up from the apartment below. The three ran out of their home.
“Our house is on fire. Get here now,” she said she told her husband on the phone after they fled their home.
Then, “We just stood in disbelief and watched our house burn to the ground.” Despite the loss of her home, McCann still had a sense of humor: She wondered whether she would get her security deposit back.
When the first of six Atascadero units arrived at the scene shortly after the 1 p.m. call, flames shot up 15 to 20 feet above the two-story structure, said Bill White, an Atascadero fire captain and spokesman.
Everyone was already out of their homes, and a few people were spraying the fire with garden hoses, he said. Six other departments helped: Cal Fire, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Templeton, Atascadero State Hospital and Santa Margarita.
Although no one was injured as a result of the fire, one person cut his finger, another had shortness of breath and a third individual, who experienced chest pain when he returned to find his apartment in flames, was taken to the hospital, officials said.
No estimate of damage was immediately available.
As for the Reeves brothers, they were next heading to their grandmother’s funeral after her death Sunday.
“Family first,” said Travis Reeves, 26. “Then after that, we can figure out what we are going to do.”