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Rossmoor Fire Started In Kitchen

Burned-out residents return to sift through the ashes; Friday fire left 13 homeless but caused no injuries.

As burned-out residents continued to step carefully into charred co-op units and look for salvageable items, fire authorities said that the Rossmoor blaze Friday started in the kitchen of Unit 4 in the 18-unit building.

Most of the 13 people left homeless in the three-alarm fire on Running Springs Road are staying at the Lafayette Park Hotel in Lafayette. Their bill is being paid by the Golden Rain Foundation, the company that manages the Rossmoor retirement community in Walnut Creek.

Lewis Broschard, fire marshal for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, said there is an ongoing investigation into the cause of the blaze, which originated in the area of the stove of Unit 4.

No injuries were reported.

A "ding-y" fire alarm sounded Friday evening, said Jim Lewelling, who lives in Unit 5 with his wife, Joan, who initially thought the alarm was coming from a computer.

Lewelling dashed out the front door, then returned, only to be driven away by the kitchen full of smoke. He and Joan ran into the parking lot and soon decided it was safer to back off farther, onto the pavement of Running Springs Road. 

"Then I saw the flames starting out of the top" of the building, he said. 

Joan Lewelling recovered some jewelry from their unit. "We got a few things," said Jim Lewelling, "but it was pretty well destroyed." 

The couple has a second home in Arizona and it looks like they will be living there exclusively, Lewelling said.

Bud and Nancy Pinkosh were in San Francisco with visiting relatives when the fire broke out.

Nancy Pinkosh was able to salvage a passport that had been soaked by fire hoses but was otherwise OK from a bag in a relatively undamaged room of their home. So her long-planned trip later this week to Scotland and Poland with her daughter and granddaughter will proceed. Pinkosh was shopping for new clothes Monday with a gift card provided by the American Red Cross, said Kerry Curtis, a relative.

Pinkosh fortunately had a suitcase that was stored in the carport and was spared fire damage, relatives said.

The Pinkoshes returned to their unit Monday afternoon, salvaged some files and brought out a severely charred computer monitor. Returning unit owners were accompanied by workers from AMAC Construction and Restoration, which has an office in Concord.

The destroyed building contained "co-op manors" built in the late 1960s. A meeting is scheduled for later this week to go over plans for demolition and rebuilding, said Maureen O'Rourke, senior manager of communications services for Rossmoor.

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