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Fire guts Lido Isle home

March 08, 2002

June Casagrande

LIDO ISLE -- Bob Hipchen was dreaming he was sitting by a campfire

when he awoke to the nightmare: his Via Lido Soud home in flames.

The six inhabitants of the house and their dog had escaped without

injury by the time firefighters arrived about 4:30 a.m. In about 40

minutes the blaze was extinguished without spreading to any neighboring

homes in the tightly packed community, but Hipchen's two-story house was

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completely destroyed.

"It was the smell of smoke that woke me up," Hipchen said. "The smell

was causing me to dream I was at a campfire."

When he jolted awake, he ran across the hallway to the room where his

21-year-old daughter, Rachel, was sleeping.

"I ran past that stairway to get her," he said Thursday, pointing to

the second story of the charred house, "and by the time we came back to

the stairway just a few seconds later, it was completely filled with

smoke."

With no other way to escape, they descended into the cloud in the

stairway to find that the front entrance was completely blocked by

flames.

"We ran to the back and got out the back way," he said.

Firefighters have not determined the cause of the fire, though they

believe it started in the garage, which the family used as a living area.

Authorities are investigating the fire as an accident and said they have

no reason to suspect a crime.

"What's unfortunate is that neither one of the smoke detectors in the

house was online," said Donna Boston, a spokeswoman for the Newport Beach

Police Department. "If either one had been working, it could have saved a

lot."

The house is considered destroyed, firefighters said.

Hipchen, who shares ownership of the home with a partner, has lived in

the house for five years. The house had recently been sold, he said, and

had gone into escrow on Wednesday.

Hipchen said he and his family had been planning to find another home

in Newport Beach or possibly Costa Mesa.

Later in the day, volunteers from the American Red Cross provided the

Hipchens and their two friends vouchers to a hotel in the area.

"We're just so lucky no one got hurt," Hipchen said.

* June Casagrande covers Newport Beach. She may be reached at (949)

574-4232 or by e-mail at o7 june.casagrande@latimes.comf7 .

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