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No answers yet in fire at home of Sonoma Coast surfer

  • County arson task force members Scott Maxwell, left of the Valley of the Moon Fire Protection District and Sean Jerry of CalFire, right, clear rubble of the home of Steve Wayne McAlpin,who died of his injuries in a fire at his home in Carmet, Monday Dec. 9, 2013 north of Bodega Bay. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

Firefighters have been unable to determine the cause of a Monday morning blaze that resulted in the death of a longtime Sonoma Coast man who escaped from his burning Carmet home but died after driving his car just a few doors down the road.

The severity of the damage means "it's going to be very difficult to determine cause," Bodega Bay Fire Chief Sean Grinnell said.

He said home insurance representatives are still investigating, but it's unclear if a cause a will be determined.

Carmet House Fire

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Steve Wayne McAlpin, 62, an avid surfer and well-known character in the community, had lived in the house for most of four decades after moving to the Sonoma Coast area from Monterey, his daughter, Acacia Balzer, said.

The blaze that consumed his home broke out around 3:20 a.m., causing several neighbors to call 911.

One of them saw McAlpin back his green Kia Soul out of the driveway and head up Coastal Avenue, though he soon veered across the road and into a ditch, where he later was found slumped over the steering wheel, authorities said.

Balzer said the Soul was brand new — in fact was the first new car her father had ever bought — and she thinks he may have had to jimmy open the garage to get it out, possibly exposing him to additional smoke.

An autopsy conducted Wednesday has not conclusively determined his cause of death, though McAlpin, known locally as SteveO, was known to have health problems, Balzer and Grinnell said.

Pathologists are awaiting the results of toxicology tests to determine his blood gas levels before declaring a preliminary cause of death, Sonoma County coroner's Sgt. Greg Stashyn said.

Though Grinnell said he observed no outward signs of smoke inhalation, such as soot on McAlpin's face, the man could still have inhaled super-heated air or air rich in carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide.


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