2 firefighters seriously injured in Modesto blaze

11:15 a.m. Update: The Modesto Fire Department released the names of the two injured firefighters in last night's blaze on Coston Avenue.

Engineer James Adams, 46, the more seriously injured of the two, suffered burns to 40 percent of his body, said Battalion Chief Hugo Patino from a news conference at the scene of the fire this morning.

He said Adams' airway was clear, and that his injuries were not life-threatening. Adams was being treated at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.

Firefighter Jason Clevenger, 32, suffered burns to 10 percent of his body. He was treated at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto.

We'll have more on this story later today and in Sunday's Bee.

Two Modesto firefighters were seriously injured late Friday night while battling a blaze that started when a gas-powered generator used to bring electricity into the house caught fire.

The three occupants in the house, including two children, escaped just after the fire began and were not injured, according to Wendy White, who lives at the house.

As of 3:15 a.m., one firefighter was at Doctors Medical Center being treated for burns. The other, who suffered "significant burns", was transported by a critical care ambulance to UC Medical Center in Davis, according to Battalion Chief Hugo Patino of the Modesto Fire Department.

A helicopter to transport the firefighter could not be used because of weather conditions, Patino said.

Patino said both firefighters, whose names were not released, were conscious and talking to fire personnel after they were pulled from the burning house.

The three-alarm fire at 2308 Coston Ave., just southeast of Prescott Road and Peach Drive, began just after 11:30 p.m.

Patino said there was no electricity in the home, and it appeared that the occupant was using a gas-powered generator stationed in the garage for the electrical supply. He said the generator was out of gas, and while attempting to refill it, and using a candle for light, White dropped the candle.

Patino said when fire crews arrived on the scene seven minutes after the 11:36 p.m. call, they began attacking the fire from inside the home. The first started in the garage.

Meanwhile, two firefighters went to the roof to vertically ventilate the single-story house. Vertical ventilation is used to remove the heat and smoke from the environment below.

Shortly after they began, the roof caved in.

"There was a catastrophic failure on the roof and the two firefighters fell through," Patino said. "Upon collapse, the mayday was reported. The (rapid intervention company) was pressed into service and within a couple of minutes, they had both firefighters out."

Patino said the intensity of the heat caused the roof to collapse significantly sooner than usual, adding that he was told by one crew member that he had never seen a roof fail in that short amount of time.

Patino also said there may have been structural problems with the roof that contributed to the collapse.

White said as soon as the fire began, she rounded up her two children, ages 11 and 14, and ran out of the house. There was no time to get any belongings.

"The generator we had exploded ... and I got my kids and we ran out of the house," White said. "I went over to the neighbor's house and called the fire department."

She said there was a lot of smoke as the fire department arrived, and as soon as they cut a hole in the roof, flames shot out.

When the firefighters fell through the roof, the incident went from a single-alarm working structure fire to three alarms.

A single-alarm brings four engines, one truck, and one chief officer a total of 16 fire personnel. A second-alarm added an engine and truck with six more personnel. The third alarm brought two additional engines and another six fire fighters.

Five chief officers also responded along with four fire investigators.

No other firefighters were injured, Patino said. He estimated the loss at $25,000.

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