Authorities have ordered neighbors to evacuate homes near a Santa Rosa house that exploded in flames Wednesday morning, leaving one person dead and concerns that any stored ammunition in the charred remains of the home could present a safety hazard.
Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal said that the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office bomb squad was called to the Nebraska Drive residence near Slater Middle School. Next-door residents were ordered to leave their homes while the bomb team entered the house and searched for any explosive materials.
Neighbors said one of the residents, Stan Turner, was a Veteran and a past commander of the American Legion’s Theodore Roosevelt Post, No. 21.
His wife, Bea Turner, was able to escape the flames that engulfed the Nebraska Drive house that had been her home for close to 60 years. But Stan Turner remained unaccounted for an hour after the 11:42 a.m. fire., according to fire officials.
Fire officials did not immediately confirm the identity of the deceased person, but no other people were reported to be inside the home at the time of the fire.
Neighbors in the block off Sonoma Avenue, between Slater School and Summerfield Road, said they were drawn outside by the loud crackling sounds, and then a fire and loud explosions.
Christopher Johnson, 55, who lives across the street from the Turners’ home, said he saw flames between the garage door and the rear-end of a minivan backed into the driveway.
He started pounding on a nearby window, calling his neighbors’ names, then tried to break the glass with his fist.
“I couldn’t hear anything, the fire was making so much noise,” Johnson said.
Another neighbor threw a cinderblock through the window just as a police officer arrived and went to the back yard to try to get the residents to safety.
In the chaos of people trying to help, Bea Turner turned up, but there had been no sign of her husband. She was disoriented and smoke-stained, and it was unclear how she got outside. Assistant Santa Rosa Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal said Bea Turner was transported to the hospital for evaluation and possible treatment.
Lowenthal said a live, arcing power line across the minivan contributed to the challenge of fighting the fire, which threatened several neighboring homes, prompting evacuations.
Check back later for more on this developing story.