Napa earthquake: first a 'boom,' then flames at mobile home park

Napa earthquake: first a 'boom,' then flames at mobile home park
Napa County firefighters spray foam on hotspots from a fire at a mobile home park following the reported 6.0 earthquake in Napa. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Bill Linder couldn't sleep so he sat in bed during the pre-dawn hours Sunday and thought about getting up to watch TV.

His mind drifted for a bit and then he heard a noise that seemed to shake his entire body. It had to be a plane crash, he thought.


"It didn't rumble, just boom!" he said. "It was like Napa bounced."

The 63-year-old rushed barefoot through the hallway -- now damp with spilled olive oil and littered with shards of broken Starbucks mugs -- and walked out onto his front porch.

It was just after 3 a.m. but the flames eating up his neighbor's home lit everything. He was bearing witness to the first signs of what the 6.0-magnitude earthquake had unleashed on this Napa mobile home park for seniors.

A few homes down and across the street, Steve Francom, a live-in caretaker, saw that everyone inside was OK and headed outside to help others.

He heard screams: "There's a fire! There's a fire!" Barefoot and in his boxers, he sprinted toward the smell of smoke.

"I saw huge flames pushing out of the house," he said. "It was like a pyre."

He saw an older woman crying and screaming for her cat, Coco. He wanted to do something about the flames, but they'd gotten too big, so he consoled the woman instead.

Before long, he said, firefighters showed up and he heard them screaming the same three words: "There's no pressure! There's no pressure!"

He later learned that a water main that runs underneath the pavement at the entrance to the Napa Valley Mobile Home Park had burst.

In a domino effect, the embers from the fire jumped from the first home to another and another and another, sending them up in flames.

Ten hours later, Napa City firefighters were still putting out hotspots in the ruins of the four mobile homes that burned to the ground.

Laverne Johnson, 90, said her neighbor, whose home was among those that burned, told her that his home had toppled off its foundation and severed a gas line, which triggered the fire.

Kelly Doheny, who manages the park's 255 homes with her husband, said she couldn't yet confirm that the fire was started by a broken gas pipe.

Twitter: @marisagerber