Barely a month into 2018, a townhouse fire on Jan. 28 at 1031 Clyde Ave., Santa Clara, took the life of a man identified Monday by the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office as James Strong, 62, of Santa Clara. It is the first fire fatality in Santa Clara in several years.
Eight others escaped injury in the two-story, four-unit building in the large, Lafayette Americana complex of townhouses at Lafayette Street and Montague Expressway. The four townhouse units are attached by common walls, and two of the townhouses in the unit were destroyed by the three-alarm fire, which was called in at 1:50 a.m. on Sunday.
Strong was in cardiac arrest when firefighters found him inside. He was given CPR and sent to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“It’s very difficult. Firefighters, that’s the first thing we think about when we go inside a building—rescuing somebody, and hopefully we’ll be successful,” said Santa Clara Fire Department (SCFD) Chief Bill Kelly in a live KRON 4 TV interview at the fire scene.
“In my career, about two o’clock to four o’clock in the morning is when most of our fires that cause injuries occur,” said Chief Kelly. “People are home, and they’re sleeping, and sometimes fires get a head start by the time we get there. We got here quickly, but the fire was advanced when we got here.”
The SCFD arrived within five minutes after receiving the call, but the fire was already coming out the door and windows on both levels. The fire was “knocked down” from the outside in about 30 minutes, meaning that the main fire was out and no longer spreading. It was completely extinguished in a couple hours, according to SCFD Battalion Chief Jeremy Ray.
Three SCFD Chief Officers, eight engines and two trucks, which have aerial ladders and are larger than the engines, responded to the fire. In addition, mutual assistance was provided by the Sunnyvale, San Jose and Milpitas fire departments. No fire fighters were injured while fighting the fire.
The cause of the fire was not initially known and will be investigated as soon as a structural engineer can determine when it’s safe to enter the building. The displaced residents all secured temporary housing. The Red Cross is available to offer assistance.
“We really encourage all home owners to have functional smoke detectors,” said Ray. “It really does save lives.”