Family homeless after fire causes $400,000 damage in Arroyo Grande

Susan Williams stood on the sidewalk outside the remains of her Arroyo Grande home Thursday morning, watching as three firefighters shoveled and sifted through debris in search of the cause of an early morning blaze that tore through the single-story house.

“It kind of puts you in shock,” she said, leaning against the chain-link fence encircling the 1,186-square-foot property in the 1200 block of Cedar Street. “You don’t know how to feel.

Fire officials said the blaze appeared to have started in the garage and then traveled through a breezeway into the three-bedroom residence. The damage was estimated at $400,000, according to Five Cities Fire Authority Battalion Chief Riki Heath.

Williams and her two sons were home asleep when the fire started before 2 a.m. They had been up late the previous evening setting up their Christmas tree. They went to bed about 11 p.m.

Williams said she woke up about 1:30 a.m. to the smell of smoke. She walked to her 17-year-old’s bedroom, located nearest the garage, and awakened him. The house appeared hazy.

She then got her 8-year-old boy, and the three ran out of the house. Their dog, a chocolate lab named Lilly, also survived.

By the time firefighters arrived, Williams said, the house was engulfed in flames.

Arroyo Grande police officers were the first to arrive and went inside the home to make sure all of its occupants were out safely.

Firefighters, with assistance from Cal Fire, used a ladder truck and a hand-held hose to extinguish the blaze. The fire was controlled at 2:38 a.m., according to a news release from Heath.

Firefighters carried personal belongings out of the home and tried to salvage as much as possible. But the Williams family, who had lived there nearly seven years, lost most of their possessions, and what was left was covered in soot and water.

“Unless it’s sentimental, I don’t know if we’ll keep it,” said Brandon Williams, the oldest son. He only had time to grab his cell phone and some pants before running out of the house. One thing that was saved, he said, was a wooden box containing a pair of his baby shoes.

Susan Williams said the home’s smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarm — the latter was recently installed — did not sound.

The American Red Cross is providing assistance and a hotel for two days for the family. Anyone willing to help the family can contact Susan Williams at susantriedandtrue@gmail.com.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.