Responding to a call just before 9:30pm last night, firefighters from the Marina Fire Department arrived to a 12-unit apartment complex to find flames coming from an upstairs apartment and its exterior balcony.
According to a statement sent out by the department this morning, Marina police evacuated the building and firefighters quickly extinguished the fire in the apartment of origin.
The apartment suffered major smoke and heat damage, and several other units in the building—located at 3270 Del Monte Blvd. in Marina—incurred smoke and water damage.
All the tenants have been displaced indefinitely, and the American Red Cross is assisting four adults and two children in finding a place to stay. The other tenants have reportedly found shelter with friends or family.
The entire building will remain vacant until maintenance personnel and city building inspectors can assess damages and restore electricity and gas to unaffected units.
The fire department is still investigating the fire's cause.
Other departments that assisted at the scene were the Presidio of Monterey Fire Department, Seaside Fire Department and the North County Fire Protection District. Firefighters from the Monterey Regional Fire Protection District provided city coverage while blaze was being contained.
UPDATE - 12/16/14 4pm: Marina Fire Chief Harald Kelley sent out a statement today indicating that while the source of the Dec. 14 fire is still being investigated, a Christmas tree in the apartment greatly accelerated the blaze.
Kelley included a video of a Christmas tree in an apartment with a small flame under it, which shows the room it's in completely engulfed by flames in less than a minute.
He also shared several fire safety tips related to Christmas trees:
Picking the tree
• If you have an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled, certified, or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.
• Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
Placing the tree
• Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 1" - 2" from the base of the trunk.
• Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
• Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
• Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.
Lighting the tree
• Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
• Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of LED strands to connect.
• Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
• Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
• Get rid of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home. Check with your local community to find a recycling program. Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.