San Jose

Customer, Resident Describe Scene as Flames Engulf San Jose Home Depot

The fire destroyed the Home Depot on Blossom Hill Road in South San Jose

NBC Universal, Inc.

People inside the Home Depot in San Jose that caught fire Saturday evening said they didn't hear any fire alarms going off until well after burning pieces of ceiling started falling.

Julia Locas was inside the store on Blossom Hill Road when the fire started. She captured video of flaming pieces of ceiling raining down but said even as the burning roof was falling, she didn't hear any fire alarms.

"It was surprising how long it took for the fire alarms to go off," she said. "That was concerning."

She said an employee got on the loudspeaker and ordered people to get out.

"At that point everyone really started running," she said.

Sherrie Butts said she watched in horror as her home just a few yards away from the store began to fill with thick smoke.

"I couldn't even scream for help because my throat was so burnt," she said.

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Within minutes, propane tanks were exploding like bombs, she said.

"No fire people were here, no police officers, no nothing," she said. "We were on our own. People were taking all our hoses."

Embers from the blaze burned sections of her roof and her palm tree. Firefighters tore down her fence to get to the flames. She was ordered to evacuate.

"When you're driving away, you're never going to see your home again, never. That's how we felt, that we would never come back home, that we thought it was just going to be gone," she said.

On Monday, ATF agents joined the investigation. The San Jose Fire Department said, for now, they're not discussing why federal agents were called in.

Fire investigators have said it appears the fire started in the lumber section of the store, but they're still looking for the cause.

Home Depot said employees from the destroyed store have been reassigned to work at several other stores in the area while crews start what will be a daunting cleanup effort.

At Wagly pet hospital next door, managers were allowed back in Monday to assess the smoke and water damage and determine next steps.

All 60 animals at the hospital were evacuated Saturday night by employees who loaded them into their own cars and drove them to other veterinarian centers.

As of Monday night, all but seven animals have been reunited with their owners.

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