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Posted by Cathy Gowdy on Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 13:24:52 :

Independent Journal
Wednesday, Sept. 22, 1954
Page 6

Homestead Woman, 72, Dies As Fire Guts Home
Two Nearby Houses Also In Danger

A 72-year-old Homestead Valley woman died last night before she could escape from flames which rapidly and completely destroyed her home at 98 Lavern avenue.

Mrs. Betty Price (sic) who has been in ill health was trapped in her bedroom, attached to the one-story wooden house. Coroner Frank J. Keaton estimated the time of death at 10:45 p.m.

The building was entirely gutted by fire and estimated as a total loss of $3000 with approximately $1,250 damages to furniture and personal belongings. Firemen saved approximately $50 in currency and bonds which had been stashed away in some magazines.

The fire of undetermined origin presumably started between 9 and 10 p.m. in the bedroom where Mrs. Pierce had been living for t he past 23 years.

Unnoticed, flames silently spread throughout the house until Mrs. Betty Howie, returning to her next-door home, reported the fire at approximately 10:30 p.m.

By the time two units from the Homestead Valley Fire Department responded to the alert, the building was enveloped in flames.

Realizing Mrs. Pierce might be trapped in the bedroom, three firemen worked from five to 10 minutes to break down the door. When the door was finally opened, firemen found the body was holding the door closed.

In recovering the body, Homestead Valley Assistant Chief Conrad Tarabella received acid burns on the palms of his hands but was not hospitalized. No other firemen were seriously injured.

Before the fire was brought under control at 11:24 p.m., the nearby homes of Mrs. Howie and H. G. Watkins were threatened but did not burn. Both families were evacuated from the buildings.

At one point, a tree in the densely-wooded area caught fire, but was quickly doused before the flames could spread.

Chief Kirby said the building burned rapidly as the home was of wood construction with wall paper and wooden finishing. Also Mrs. Pierce collected magazines and books which were stacked throughout the bedroom and ignited quickly.

Ironically, W. F. Filmer from whom Mrs. Pierce rented the bedroom and who lived in the home until his recent death, was buried yesterday. Mrs. Madge Lude of Mill Valley is the owner of the building.
Approximately 20 men from Homestead Valley and eight firemen from the Marin County Fire Department continued mopping up operations until 1:30 a.m. today.

Chief Kirby who is investigating the fire said although the cause was not determined, he did not suspect arson.

Mrs. Pierce’s death was the first fatality in a Homestead Valley fire since the department was organized in 1942. She received burns to her face, hair and body but the blisters had not opened which would indicate first degree burns. An autopsy was to be performed today.

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