A fire at a single-story home in Atascadero early Sunday morning was caused by candles that were left unattended, the Atascadero Fire Department said Monday.
No one was injured in the blaze, which caused significant damage to the home. The tenant of the home told The Tribune that his dog — a Chihuahua and pug mix — likely saved his life by waking him up after the fire started.
“She was kind of digging, scratching at my back,” said Kevin Buchanan, 28. “I woke up and the room was all lit up.”
At about 3:47 a.m., several people reported a fire in the 5200 block of Dulzura Avenue. Five fire engines responded from the Atascadero Fire Department, the Paso Robles Department of Emergency Services and Cal Fire, as well as a breathing unit from the Templeton Fire Department.
Once awakened, Buchanan noticed that his laundry basket was on fire in the room. He grabbed his cellphone and wrapped his dog in a blanket and fled the home without grabbing any other possessions.
“I remember standing outside in my pajamas,” Buchanan said. “My heart started pumping. My dog was freaking out. There were pops and booms inside of there and flames shooting out the windows. My lungs were burning, but not for long, as if I’d just run a marathon in the cold. … I’m just lucky I made it out.”
He said that he regularly used candles because the electricity had been turned off in the home.
“The only thing I could think of is that the candle got knocked over,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan said that he’s mainly concerned with finding a new place to stay. He can afford to pay up to $800 per month for rent, preferably between $500 and $700.
He said he receives a Social Security disability benefit because he has mild autism.
Red Cross has helped him by providing a room in Motel 6, as well as clothes and food. But after Monday night, he’ll no longer be given a paid motel room, and the agency is now connecting him with other social services, he said.
The 2005 graduate of Del Rio Continuation High School in Atascadero said that he lost his possessions in the blaze, including clothes, personal writing, a television, his phone charger and batteries.
“What really bothers me is that it’s Christmas,” Buchanan said. “I don’t want to take away help from any kids or others who need (social services). I just really want a place to stay, and I can pay for it.”
Firefighters found the single-story, single-family house with heavy flames and smoke coming from a bedroom window toward the front of the home and spreading toward the rest of the house, according to an Atascadero Fire Department news release.
Eighteen firefighters fought the fire for about 20 minutes and were able to contain the blaze to the bedroom, but the home’s interior experienced severe heat and smoke damage.
There was no functioning smoke detector, the fire department said.
The fire caused about $200,000 in structural damage and about $18,500 in other losses.
How to donate
If you want to donate, an account has been set up for Kevin Buchanan at Rabobank by his father, Michael Buchanan. The account number is 830312990.