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Man’s grudge vanishes as blaze begins

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Eddie House says he has never been fond of the apartment complex he claims was built too close to his San Carlos home, but that didn’t stop him from dousing a fire that broke out there early Tuesday morning, possibly saving the lives of some of the building’s occupants.

House, 53, said he was in the kitchen of his Cedar Street home when he saw the complex "lit up in orange" at around 4:30 a.m. He said he immediately called 911, rushed outside for his hose and helped quell the flames before firefighters arrived.

The blaze started on the second-floor deck of the three-story complex. House said two people were asleep in the apartment connected to the ignited deck, although fire officials would not confirm how many people were inside the building, citing an ongoing investigation.

No one was injured or displaced in the fire, which caused less than $7,500 in exterior damage to the building, said Jim Palisi, the fire marshal for the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department.

Palisi confirmed House helped put out the flames and said the citizen did the right thing by immediately calling firefighters.

"The good thing is that he dialed 911 so that the professionals could handle it," Palisi said.

Palisi said investigators have notyet determined the fire’s cause. House suspects discarded cigarettes or matches might have played a role. He believes tenants smoking on their decks were responsible for a fire on his property about six months ago that ignited the cover to a boat in his garage. House has had an ongoing feud with the apartment building. He has complained to the city that the complex was built too close to his home and said it generates litter and parking problems.

House is facing a lawsuit from San Carlos for canceling his garbage-collection service, a charge he fears stems from his complaints about the apartment complex.

He said he stopped his service a year ago after realizing his garbage cans were nearly always empty and that he could recycle everything.

City officials denied the lawsuit is personal and said House’s lack of garbage service was brought to their attention after neighbors complained he was causing foul smells by burning his garbage. House admitted that the fire department was called to his house several times, but said he was simply burning firewood.

maldax@examiner.com