Subscribe

Fire breaks out at notorious Sampson family compound west of Petaluma

Wilmar and Rancho Adobe firefighters rotate manpower as they help to fight a brush and house fire on Liberty Road in rural Petaluma, Friday Oct. 6, 2017. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat)

ELOÍSA RUANO GONZÁLEZ,

A trailer erupted in flames at the Sampson family compound Friday, destroying a boat before reaching the main house and leaving the property west of Petaluma uninhabitable, fire officials said.

The fire started at about 2:40 p.m. in an 18-foot trailer parked on the compound on the corner of Liberty and Skillman lanes, Rancho Adobe Battalion Chief Herb Wandel said. A transient woman in her 20s accidentally started the fire after falling asleep while smoking, he said.

When she awoke, the woman saw a small fire next to her bed, Wandel said. The woman, who wasn’t identified, ran out and unsuccessfully tried to extinguish the fire before it engulfed the trailer and a nearby boat, he said.

“She was lucky to get out,” Wandel said.

When firefighters arrived, the blaze had spread across the compound to the main house. An off-duty firefighter and passerby ran into the home, rescuing the property’s owner, Rose Sampson, 91, who was taken to Petaluma Valley Hospital for smoke inhalation. Her son, identified as Tony Sampson, 61, escaped without injuries, fire officials said.

[youtube: hgrOU7ml7NE]

Debris and trash on the property fueled the fire, Wandel said. The blaze forced fire officials to temporarily shut down part of Liberty Road as they extinguished the flames and mopped up. Wandel said the property is unsafe for the Sampson family to inhabit.

“I didn’t feel comfortable releasing the property back,” he said, adding that the county Permit & Resource Management Department will determine the fate of the compound.

The Sampson family has had numerous run-ins with neighbors and authorities over the decades, including code enforcement issues, arrests and political battles.

Firefighters from Rancho Abode Fire Protection District, Cal Fire, Petaluma, Wilmar and San Antonio fire departments responded to the blaze.

You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 707-521-5458 or eloisa.gonzalez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @eloisanews.