Awakened by a smoke detector, residents of a rural Franz Valley Road home escaped their burning house through a window, jumping several feet from an elevated deck.
Eight fire agencies responded to the 2:25 a.m. calls about a fire in the remote, hilly area close to the Napa County border.
But fire was consuming the house when the first engines arrived and the multi-level, 2,500-square-foot home and virtually all of the contents were destroyed, said Sonoma County fire Capt. Greg Martin.
June and Jonathan Saler lost their family home and got out with only their nightclothes. She sprained an ankle in the escape and he suffered lacerations to his feet.
"They ran down the hall to see the living room totally engulfed in flames," said Matt Marshall, principal at Rincon Valley Middle School, where Jon Saler is a longtime music teacher. Saler also teaches at Slater Middle School and has been a teacher with Santa Rosa City Schools for 12 years.
"He grabbed the dog that he saw and ran outside," Marshall said. A second dog perished in the blaze.
"They lost absolutely everything," Marshall said. "It's absolutely horrible."
Martin said the destruction was so complete the cause of the fire couldn't be determined absolutely.
Fire patterns showed the blaze started in the family room and a wood burning stove there could have sparked or contributed to it, he said.
"Fortunately for them they had a couple of functioning smoke detectors in the house. Clearly the smoke detectors saved their lives, gave them the chance to wake up," Martin said.
The other end of the home was engulfed in flames when they realized what was happening, he said. "They had just enough time to get out of the house."
The only personal belongings saved had been kept in a fire-proof safe.
While an estimate on the overall loss wasn't available Tuesday, Martin said the total loss of the home and contents would likely be well in excess of $500,000.
The home was built as a small log cabin in the 1930s and over the years was expanded, while keeping the log cabin flavor. It had vaulted ceilings, exposed beams and multiple levels, Martin said.
The house was Jon Saler's childhood home.
"There were Christmas presents under the tree," Marshall said, adding that the Salers' college-age children were expected home this weekend.
Saler had brought home sheet music for Wednesday night's winter musical, Marshall said.
"Bless his soul, he was bound and determined to continue with the winter concert," he said, adding that Saler showed up for work Tuesday.
The performance has been postponed until Jan. 9.
An email to Rincon Valley Middle School families went out Tuesday afternoon and funds are already being donated through the school, Marshall said.
"The love and support is flooding in," he said.
Rooms at the Fountaingrove Inn have been offered to the family, said general manager Ken Murakami, who has one child at Rincon Valley Middle School and another who attended the school.
Any donations made at the school on Badger Road will reach the Saler family, Marshall said.
"We'll make sure it makes it to Jon and his family," he said.
Multiple 911 callers reported the fire starting at 2:25 a.m., according to Sonoma County emergency fire dispatch records. At least eight fire agencies from Sonoma and Napa counties responded.
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