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Tossed Match Might Have Caused Fire

September 11, 1996|NICK GREEN

A match discarded by a smoker in the back patio of a Camarillo home has been identified as the most likely cause of a fire that sent three people to the hospital earlier this week.

Monday's fire gutted the Dara Street home of Victoria Stellman, 78, and her two sons.

An attendant at a nearby carwash beat firefighters to the blaze and, accompanied by two off-duty sheriff's detectives who had been passing by, rescued a sleeping Stellman from the burning home.

The elderly woman and her sons were treated at a local hospital.

Investigators called off their search for the fire's cause after discovering several 55-gallon drums and numerous quarts of petroleum products and other hazardous materials in the split-level house, said Dave Chovanec, a fire investigator with the Ventura County Fire Department.

"You don't know what burned, and when those things mix, chemically it's not a place to be," he said.

The county has declared the house uninhabitable, he said.

Chovanec said one of Stellman's two sons told him he had been smoking a cigarette on the home's back patio, where the fire started.

The blaze caused $161,000 in structural damage.

A second fire, which began across the street in another home at the same time, remains under investigation.

A flying ember is suspected of igniting the second home's wood-shake roof and causing $20,000 in structural damage.

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