Six Escape Ventura House Fire; Arson Is Suspected

Six Ventura men escaped a blaze--which fire officials say may have been set deliberately--that destroyed their home early Saturday morning.

Ventura Battalion Chief Kevin Rennie said the fire tore through the four-bedroom home in the 8000 block of Wellington Street shortly before dawn.

"We are investigating it as a fire suspicious in origin," he said. "There was a lot of police activity at that house last evening and it doesn't look like it is an accidental type of fire."

Earlier, Ventura police had twice responded to disturbances at the house, which was rented by six men 18 to 21.

At 8:49 p.m. Friday, police broke up a fight between four young men, officials said. They returned at 11 p.m. when neighbors reported "partying" in the street outside the house.

All six occupants were asleep when the fire started. One man was awakened by smoke and flames and notified the others, Rennie said.

They smashed windows of the one-story house to crawl through to safety. Three of the men sustained minor cuts on their hands and feet.

Firefighters arrived about 5:50 a.m. and extinguished the blaze in 20 minutes. Damage to the home is estimated at $120,000, officials said.

A house to the west also was damaged when heat from the flames burst its windows and melted solar panels.

Investigation into the fire is continuing.

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