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Two families homeless after fire

Residents say the blaze started in a overfilled garage. Costa Mesa fire officials haven't determined an official cause yet.

August 25, 2011|By Lauren Williams, lauren.williams@latimes.com
  • David Smith, left, talks with Cpt. Chris Coates with the Costa Mesa Fire Department following an early-morning fire at the Pentridge Cove condominium complex in Costa Mesa on Thursday.
David Smith, left, talks with Cpt. Chris Coates with the… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

COSTA MESA — James Toporcer woke up early Thursday morning to a banging on his door and a voice yelling, "James, let's go!"

"I woke up and the room was pretty warm," Toporcer said. "It was too warm to grab stuff."

A fire that allegedly started in the early-morning hours in the garage beneath his room spread upward, eventually breaking the glass of his condo and melting the back off his TV.

Most of Toporcer's things were damaged beyond repair, including a computer with work and family photos, clothes and furniture. He was given one night at a hotel and a free meal from the Red Cross.

Thursday's 3 a.m. fire affected two units in the Pentridge Cove condominium complex at 740 Wesleyan Bay. Firefighters from Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley and Santa Ana were able to prevent the blaze from extending to the 19 nearby units, said Battalion Chief William Kershaw, of the Costa Mesa Fire Department.

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The blaze was extinguished in about 35 minutes, according to the Fire Department. Two families were left without homes.

No injuries were reported. The damage were estimated at $590,000, according to fire authorities.

Firefighters were still on the scene at about 9 a.m., while several residents crowded around and assessed the damage.

Later that morning, when the fire was put out, paint bubbled off nearby garages. Plastic from appliances and window screens dripped down the buildings of the complex near the intersection of Baker and Bristol streets.

As of 9 a.m., about 10 of the 108 units were without electricity, said resident David Smith.

In his 13 years at Pentridge Cove, Smith could not remember the complex ever having a fire.

Smith and another resident who declined to give his name said the blaze started in a garage filled with items; the Pentridge Cove homeowners board had previously asked the Fire Department to cite the garage owners for fire violations, but were told the department was limited by city ordinances.

Kershaw said the Fire Department can inspect common areas, such as trash shoots, but areas like the inside of an apartment or condominium are off limits.

"Anything in the residence is personal property," Kershaw said. "We're limited in what we can look at."

He said it appeared the blaze began in the garage, where firefighters stood waist-deep within blackened debris.

A cause has not yet been determined, Kershaw said.

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