Fire, explosion level Cotati home
Stanleys lose virtually all of their belongings in West School blaze
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By Dave Williams  July 4, 2014 12:00 am

The fire and explosions that destroyed a home and displaced a family in Cotati on Saturday afternoon, June 28, remains under investigation, but Rancho Adobe Fire District Chief Frank Treanor said it appears to be accidental in nature.

“We have some ideas (about the origin) but we want to nail them down before coming out and saying anything official,” Treanor said. “It’s still under investigation.”

Investigators have determined the fire came first and then caused at least two explosions, one of which reverberated around the neighborhood.

The David Stanley family for had inhabited the home on West School Street years, including the parents, and two sons. The family’s dogs were out of the home at the time of the fire and explosion, but one was missing for quite some time.

The family lost just about all of their belongings and could use help from the community. Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so by going to any Summit Bank and informing the teller they’d like to donate to the Stanley family. Or donors can go to, search for Stanley in Cotati and make a donation online. Those wishing to donate clothes, furniture or other items should email

At about 4 p.m., the teenage son smelled smoke and told his father, who saw the flames on the ceiling where several model airplanes were hanging. When David Stanley, who initially tried to fight the fire with a garden hose, realized the flames were nearing set of tanks containing Oxy Acetylene, which is used for hobby welding, he got away from the burning structure.

The explosion was so powerful, Treanor said, it lifted the home and garage off their foundation and sent debris flying.

Additional mini explosions from car fuel tanks also occurred. The explosion knocked the gas meter off and caused a natural gas leak.

Firefighters were unable to fight the blaze until the gas leak was shut off by PG&E. A power line also was disconnected by the explosion and flames, and dropped onto the house. The family's motor home was also a total loss. Two neighboring homes and neighboring vehicles were damaged in the blaze.

No injuries were reported.

An RAFD engine from its main station on East Cotati Avenue was the first to arrive in five minutes. Subsequent help arrived from Rincon Valley, Rohnert Park, Petaluma, Gold Ridge and Cal Fire.

Because of budget constraints, RAFD has had to employ rolling closures for its three fire houses. On this day, the station in Penngrove was closed. Had the East Cotati station been closed, the fire could have done more damage to the neighborhood.

Local voters rejected a ballot measure in 2012, Measure Z, which would have provided funding to keep all three RAFD fire houses open. Treanor said the RAFD is considering putting another measure on the ballot in April of next year.

“We haven’t fully ironed out what we want to do, but what it would entail would be to ensure all three fire houses are open and ensure that we’re not kicking can down road as far as equipment purchases,” he said. “We need to figure out what the traffic will bear without asking too much. I’d like to set up a program that’s long range that will ensure stuff is done proactively not reactively.”

One proactive step Treanor would like to take on July 16 is to have all three fire houses – East Cotati Avenue, Penngrove and Liberty – open for 75 percent of the fiscal year through Nov. 1, which is considered the fire season. During the rainy season, the district will return to rolling closures. He hopes to go back to full staffing in February.

In order to do so, the RAFD will need additional funding, and Treanor said he’s been in discussions with the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors concerning an memo of understanding for mitigation funds from the Graton Resort & Casino. Should there be an emergency at the casino, RAFD would be one of the first to respond.


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