Apartment fire displaces residents

Four Costa Mesa families were displaced Tuesday night when a fire ripped through their apartment complex in the 2000 block of Wallace Avenue, authorities said.

Four firefighters and two residents were treated for minor injuries related to the three-alarm blaze, which is believed to have started in a kitchen area about 6:30 p.m., according to Costa Mesa Fire Department officials.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Three of the four apartments in the complex were extensively damaged, while the fourth was "saved by an aggressive firefighting attack," Fire Chief Dan Stefano wrote in an email. He said preliminary estimates put the damage at about $800,000 but added the number could increase to more than $1 million.

The American Red Cross is expected to help the families who lost their homes.

Firefighters also rescued a cat and treated it with oxygen, Stefano wrote.

When firefighters arrived on scene they saw "extreme" smoke and fire engulfing the two-story, four-unit complex, according to Stefano.

Ultimately, more than 60 firefighters from Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley and Garden Grove helped put out the blaze in a little more than an hour, he wrote.

Bystanders created an unusual distraction for authorities on the scene, officials said, when some apparently tried to steal firefighting equipment by taking items off the fire trucks parked along the street and hiding them in gutters or behind parked cars.

Costa Mesa police officers were eventually able to track down all the missing equipment, and no one was arrested, Stefano wrote.

Battalion Chief Tim Vasin said that although such incidents are not uncommon in larger cities, it appears to be the first time passersby have attempted to take equipment from fire trucks during a fire in Costa Mesa.

[For the record, 9:16 p.m. Feb. 26: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the apartment complex was in the 2600 block of Wallace Avenue.]

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World