About a half-dozen people escaped a burning Mountain View apartment building unhurt after a boat parked outside apparently caught fire and lit the eight-unit structure Thursday afternoon.
Firefighters and witnesses said the driver of a city water truck rushed to the building and helped douse the flames before fire trucks arrived.
The blaze began just after 3 p.m. at 3802 Peterkin Ave. Next-door neighbor Gerri Mayer said she was outside watering flowers when she saw the flames spreading from a fiberglass boat, covered in a blue tarp and parked on the building's east side.
"I was like, 'That don't look right,'" Mayer said.
Mayer did not have her cellphone with her to call 911, so she ran to the building and started banging on doors and yelling to the residents. Vernon Sinyon said he was reading the sports section of the Daily News when he heard Mayer yelling, "Fire, fire fire!"
"I got the heck out," Sinyon said. "I saw all that smoke coming out the backside."
Sinyon and five or six others in the building ran out. That was when the first fire trucks arrived, said fire Capt. Jeff McDonald. There were no injuries reported, McDonald said.
The fire burned up the wall from the boat to the building's roof, McDonald said. The firefighters saw flames shooting out of the eaves and all around the lower part of the roof, he said. But the city water truck driver helped keep the flames from spreading quicker, McDonald said.
"As we pulled up, I don't know if he was watering the grass or the flowers or what, but he was able to use his booster tank and put water between the boat and the house, which helped a ton," McDonald said. "It was pretty cool that he was here."
McDonald said he did not know the driver's name.
"I wish I did, so I could thank him," the fire captain said. "They've got a pump, just like we do but not as strong, but they shoot water onto whatever they're shooting at, and he was able to throw it right there and keep it in check. Without that, it probably would've been a different story."
Residents said they had been told the entire building was uninhabitable. McDonald said four units had been damaged. The fire's cause is under investigation, he said.
Sinyon, who lives on the opposite end of the building from where the fire started, said it had been the second time in his life he has escaped a structure fire. The first was in the late 1990s, when he fled a burning cabin in Gakona in which he had been born.
"Here I am safe," he said. "That's all you can ask for."
Reach Casey Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4589.