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Fire injures man, damages two structures near downtown Santa Rosa

It’s not terribly unusual to hear people shouting from the sidewalk on College Avenue in central Santa Rosa, so at first on Sunday morning Vili Nadaku didn’t pay it much mind.

Then he smelled smoke.

At about 8 a.m., Nadaku jumped from his bed in a room above the offices of MaiFiji Home Care, Nadaku’s employer. Running outside, he saw flames and smoke pour from a smaller house behind his College Avenue home. He screamed for the man who lives there with his son.

“I was calling out to both of them - get out of the house!”

Nadaku said the man appeared at the door, and it was clear that his right forearm was badly burned. The man was apparently home alone, except for a cat that died in the fire.

Nadaku and his injured neighbor had moved well away from the blaze when the first of several Santa Rosa Fire Department crews arrived.

Nearly three dozen firefighters were called to the two-alarm blaze at 349 College Ave., which caused nearly a half million dollars in damage and left the man living there with severe burns.

As firefighters attacked the flames, Santa Rosa police and CHP officers blocked off College Avenue between Morgan and Glenn streets, east of Highway 101. That section of the heavily used College Avenue remained shut down for more than a hour.

When the fire was doused, it had badly damaged the small house where it appeared to have started and also burned the back of the two-story home and office where Nadaku lives.

Nadaku was sleeping Sunday morning when heard somebody shouting, ‘Call 911!’

Santa Rosa Fire Battalion Chief Matt Dahl at the site said several people dialed 911 to report a house afire on College Avenue.

Dahl said that when he arrived, heavy, black smoke was rising from the house, which has little separation from adjacent residences and from a vacant commercial building on the corner of College and Glenn.

Dahl sounded a second alarm.

An ambulance crew took the resident, who suffered second- and third-degree burns, to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, according to the fire department.

A fire investigator was looking into what caused the blaze. The fire department estimate damages to the buildings and a vehicle at $450,000.

Anthony Ciociolo, a Santa Rosa resident whose mother owns the building, said the victim and resident was his brother, who was transferred to the burn unit at the UC Davis.

He called the damage to the small house “total devastation” after he finished boarding it up Sunday afternoon.

“Everything in the back house is a total loss,” Ciociolo said.

Staff Writer Will Schmitt contributed to this report.

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