Ted Scott had just turned west onto 5th Street from Highway 101 when he noticed smoke billowing into the sky ahead of him Sunday around 3:15 p.m. He followed it to a house at 1056 6th Street.
"I didn't see anybody, and all I saw was flames coming from the garage," said Scott.
He began beating on the front door of the house screaming, "Hey, your garage is on fire."
Residents of the house, including two young girls, quickly evacuated, Scott said. The primary resident of the house is Raymond Downs.
"They didn't have a clue their garage was on fire," said Scott.
By that time, flames were towering 20 feet over the garage, he said.
"It was roaring out of the front of the garage. That's when I knew it was over with," said Scott. "It's a good thing the wind wasn't blowing or it would have been really bad."
He yelled for people to get the keys to an SUV in the driveway, and another man ran to the vehicle's front door to check if it was unlocked so they could possibly put it in neutral and roll it away. The doors were locked.
A hose connected to another house was used to try to douse the flames threatening the SUV, but the heat was too intense for the stream to keep the fire at bay.
Within five minutes the rear of the house was in flames, which had also spread to a neighboring garage.
A police officer arrived and advised everyone to get away from the fire. As Scott was pulling back a tire exploded, he said.
Firefighters arrived and were able to quell most of the flames in about 20 minutes, said Fire Chief Steve Wakefield.
"It was an old house with several additions so we had lots of chasing to do," said Wakefield.
The garage was destroyed, reduced to rubble at the end of the driveway. Most of the house was gutted.
"Everything in the house was destroyed by black smoke," said Scott.
The neighboring garage sustained damage to its roof and the west side wall facing the origin of the fire. Firefighters were able to keep the flames from reaching the neighboring house, which was about 10 feet away.
Firefighters from Crescent City Volunteer Fire Department worked until 6 p.m. extinguishing flames.
Crescent Fire Protection District, Fort Dick Fire Protection District and the fire crew from Pelican Bay State Prison provided assistance.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but Wakefield suspects electrical issues.
Reach Anthony Skeens at firstname.lastname@example.org.