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Early morning fire tears through cars parked at a Chico apartment complex

Firefighters contained a carport fire that severely damaged 10 cars, two apartment units and a powerline at the Bidwell Manor Apartment.

Posted: Apr 20, 2021 10:15 PM

CHICO, Calif. - People living in the Bidwell Manor Apartment complex on the Esplanade and W. First Ave. woke up to a scene of red flames and smoke at around 5 this morning.

A woman who lost her apartment unit to the fire did not want to be identified but described the chaos of the morning.

"I heard a noise, and I rolled over in bed and looked out the window and the window was all red," said the fire victim.

She immediately called 911 before rushing out from her second-story home.

"I came out and started knocking on doors and yelling fire to try and get everyone out," she told Action News Now.

Eckhard Rattay lives also lives in the complex, and was shocked by the sight he saw out his window.

"I thought maybe there was a party going on," Rattay said. "Then I heard a lot of banging and evidently that was the tires popping."

He also got out the door to make sure his neighbors were awake. 

"Everything was on fire," said Rattay. "Al the cars were on fire, the transformers were exploding, a little bit like the Fourth of July. There were sparks all over the place."

RELATED: Several cars destroyed in Chico apartment complex fire

His car was the only one spared, as it was parked in the garage.

"There's an empty spot where I used to park, and if I had parked there I would have been another one of those cars completely destroyed," Rattay said.

The flames tore through the backside of the complex, completely destroying 10 cars and the carport before jumping to the second floor causing damage to two of the upstairs apartments.

The fire also caused damage to a powerline, leaving people without power or gas.

The woman who didn't want to be identified told Action News Now that despite losing her car and place in minutes, she is grateful to be alive and taking things day by day.

"Obviously I can't go back into the apartment," she said. "It needs to be completely redone."

Red Cross and CRBR Property Damage Services were also on the scene this morning to give aid to fire survivors.

The Chico Fire Department is still investigating the cause of the fire but said the origin likely comes from somewhere near the carport.

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The first of two storms moved over northern California late last night and this morning, but our weather has quieted for now. More rain showers will fall Saturday, but heavier rain and snow with stronger wind arrives Sunday.
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