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Fire destroys hillside cabin north of Santa Rosa

Awakened by a smoke detector, residents of a rural Franz Valley Road home escaped their burning house through a window, jumping several feet from an elevated deck.

Eight fire agencies responded to the 2:25 a.m. calls about a fire in the remote, hilly area close to the Napa County border.

But fire was consuming the house when the first engines arrived and the multi-level, 2,500-square-foot home and virtually all of the contents were destroyed, said Sonoma County fire Capt. Greg Martin.

June and Jonathan Saler lost their family home and got out with only their nightclothes. She sprained an ankle in the escape and he suffered lacerations to his feet.

“They ran down the hall to see the living room totally engulfed in flames,” said Matt Marshall, principal at Rincon Valley Middle School, where Jon Saler is a longtime music teacher. Saler also teaches at Slater Middle School and has been a teacher with Santa Rosa City Schools for 12 years.

“He grabbed the dog that he saw and ran outside,” Marshall said. A second dog perished in the blaze.

“They lost absolutely everything,” Marshall said. “It's absolutely horrible.”

Martin said the destruction was so complete the cause of the fire couldn't be determined absolutely.

Fire patterns showed the blaze started in the family room and a wood burning stove there could have sparked or contributed to it, he said.

“Fortunately for them they had a couple of functioning smoke detectors in the house. Clearly the smoke detectors saved their lives, gave them the chance to wake up,” Martin said.

The other end of the home was engulfed in flames when they realized what was happening, he said. “They had just enough time to get out of the house.”

The only personal belongings saved had been kept in a fire-proof safe.

While an estimate on the overall loss wasn't available Tuesday, Martin said the total loss of the home and contents would likely be well in excess of $500,000.

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