A Lodi family lost nearly all their belongings Friday afternoon in a fire that was likely started by a child playing with matches, Lodi fire investigators said.
The fire, in the 400 block of Harold Street near Garfield Street, was reported around 1:15 p.m. and burned for more than half an hour as firefighters poured water on the stubborn flames.
Janet Diaz, 20, said she was outside on the front porch watching her young daughter play when she heard a fire alarm sound. She went in the house to find flames and smoke coming from a closet in the front bedroom.
She only had time to grab a briefcase in which the family keeps birth certificates and other valuable documents. The hot handle slightly hurt her hand as she threw the briefcase out the front door.
Another adult was cooking in the kitchen and a 4-year-old was in a bedroom, Lodi Fire Capt. Mike Lair said. The exact cause of the fire remains under investigation, but Lair said he has reason to suspect the child was playing with matches.
Diaz's 19-year-old brother, Richard Diaz, was working in Stockton when he got a phone call that his house was on fire. He arrived to find smoke pouring out the roof and drifting into the sky, where it could be seen from as far as Acampo.
"We had couches, TVs, all our belongings in there," said a teary-eyed Richard Diaz, who had been a star soccer player at Lodi High School.
Dozens of neighbors gathered, watching as firefighters aimed hoses at the stucco house and cut through the newer roof with chain saws to get to the fire.
At one point, a relative of the Diazes rushed to the scene and tried to move his Chevrolet Tahoe, which was parked next to the house and had broken windows and scorched paint. Firefighters pulled him away while other bystanders tried to calm him down.
When the smoke cleared, daylight could be seen through the house, and the interior was blackened. Even a Halloween pumpkin which had been a front step decoration was damaged in the commotion.