San Clemente couple, dogs escape house fire after explosion

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (KABC) -- A couple managed to escape after a fire ripped through their San Clemente home following some sort of explosion early Thursday morning.

The explosion, which was believed to have started in the garage, was first reported around 3 a.m., the Orange County Fire Authority said.

The blast was so powerful, it sent debris across the roadway.

"Something obviously exploded in that garage that blew the garage door completely across the street. We don't know what that is yet, but we're looking at all causes," said OCFA Capt. Larry Kurtz.

When firefighters arrived at the home, located at 110 Avenida Dolores, the single-family residence was well involved in flames.

The couple was asleep at the time of the explosion. They were not able to get out through the front door due to smoke and flames. They managed to escape through the back door, fire officials said.

"It was terrifying. I've never been that close to fire, and the explosions were just crazy," said homeowner Diane Alajoki. "Basically, I didn't have much in my brain going on. I just knew we've got to get out."

Alajoki and her husband John have two dogs - one was safe, but their second dog was missing for hours. Then around 8 a.m., Coco came trotting down the street.

"Someone had reported that they had found her in a field, and so I started calling her, and I see this tail flying by, and it gets closer and closer, and there she was," John Alajoki said.

In addition to the home being a total loss, three cars burned in the fire. Also, homes on either side of the Alajokis' house were damaged.

A gas main also ruptured, but the gas company was on scene trying to repair the damage.

"It sounded like the Marines had gotten out of control over on Camp Pendleton. That's what it sounded like, and we felt it," said Don Bassett, a neighbor.

The cause of the explosion was not immediately known.
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