Fire has destroyed two Sonoma County homes and seriously damaged two others in less than two days, according to fire reports.

"This time of year we typically see more structure-type fires," said Sonoma County fire Capt. Greg Martin. "It's cold, a lot are attributed to heat sources or .<TH>.<TH>. fires related to Christmas trees or decorations."

On Tuesday fire investigators continued to work on the cause of a Sonoma Coast fire that destroyed a Carmet home.

Carmet resident Steve McAlpin died after leaving the burning house in his car and crashing into a nearby ditch. McAlpin, 62, was found slumped over the steering wheel.

The cause of his death wasn't clear. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.

That fire was reported at 3:20 a.m. It reduced the home to charred cinders.

The fire appeared to be accidental but fire officials weren't going to close the investigation at least until they had more information on McAlpin's death, said Sonoma County fire Capt. Greg Martin.

Carmet is a village of coastal homes just north of Bodega Bay.

Early Tuesday a home on Franz Valley Road in northeastern Sonoma County near Calistoga burned to the ground, started possibly by a wood burning stove.

A Bellevue Avenue home in southwest Santa Rosa was badly damaged Monday morning from improperly discarded smoking materials, according to an investigation.

A Riebli Road home near Hidden Hills Drive lost a garage and a classic Woody car parked inside late Sunday night.

That fire remains under investigation but may have started from fireplace ashes placed in a plastic garbage can next to the garage, said fire officials.

"This time of year people are using fireplaces, wood stoves, portable heating devices. With the extended cold period people tend to leave those devices on longer," said Martin.

He said people should be conscientious of their heating appliances, fireplace ashes and other lightweight combustibles.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or

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