Good Samaritans helped an elderly couple safely escape a 2-alarm house fire that fire officials believe was set by a serial arsonist who has targeted homes in downtown San Jose this week.
Around 4:20 a.m., a man who was out for a run spotted fire coming from a home near the intersection of East St. John and 17th Streets, San Jose fire Capt. Barry Ehlers said.
The man ran to the home and pounded on the door but getting no answer, knocked on the doors of neighboring homes to alert neighbors, Ehlers said.
Still not getting any responses, the man ran to the fire station located about a block away, where he awoke firefighters and reported the blaze.
Fire crews quickly arrived on the scene to find the one-story Victorian home partially engulfed in flames, Ehlers said.
By that time a father and son living next to the home had managed to awaken the couple and help them evacuate, the captain said.
"You had Good Samaritans...and luckily no one got injured," Ehlers said.
Firefighters also found the couple's pet cat inside the home and brought it outside to safety, he said.
Crews attacked the blaze for nearly two hours before declaring it under control.
The firefight was made even tougher due to the home's roof collapsing around 4:35 a.m., according to Ehlers.
He said the fire appears to have started near the house's rear porch area and quickly spread to its roof.
The blaze displaced the elderly couple, who are receiving housing assistance from the American Red Cross.
Ehlers estimated the fire caused at least $200,000 in damage to the century-old home.
He said that while the cause of the blaze remains under investigation, fire investigators "highly suspect" that the same person or people who set 10 other arson fires in the surrounding area over the past few days is the culprit.
This morning's fire was the 11th suspicious fire set within a roughly 2-mile area in downtown San Jose since Wednesday, according to fire officials.
The San Jose Firefighters Local 230 union is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspect behind the arson fires.
A noon news conference will be held at the fire station at 802 East Santa Clara Street to announce the award and release more details about the recent arson fires meant to help identify a suspect.
The San Jose Fire Dept. tweeted this photo of Saturday morning's house fire:
2nd alarm Victorian house fire. 17th street & St. John St pic.twitter.com/bDpNIvrl8U
— San Jose Fire Dept. (@SJFD) January 11, 2014