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Exercise 5-4
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Writing a Fire Story


You arrive at the scene while firefighters are still walking around with shovels, making sure the fire is out for good. Steam rises from the blackened mess. A brick fireplace, strips of metal roofing, and a toilet are all that remain. An elderly woman sits on the rear bumper of a paramedic's van. She's drinking water. Write a story for the Monday morning edition of your paper based on the following set of facts.
  • About 40 firefighters from the Woodside Fire Department and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection responded on Sunday to a 7-acre brush fire on the north side of Highway 280 near Woodside Road.

  • The fire has destroyed a home and small barn at 384 Serramonte Ave. Melinda Frades owned the property and has lived there for 22 years. She's 69.

  • It's getting dark. Frades stares vacantly at the hot spots in the smoking rubble. Twisted pieces of metal roofing squeak in the wind. "Kind of old to start all over," Frades says, kicking at a metal dog dish.

  • Frades says she was returning from a shopping trip when she saw the smoke and called 911.

  • The fire began at about 4 p.m. at the bottom of a hill adjacent to the highway and spread up to the top, where it reached the single-story ranch-style house, according to Woodside Fire Capt. Jan Spiegel. "Looks like it might have been something somebody threw from a car," Spiegel said. "We'll know more in the morning."

  • At the height of the fire, large clouds of black smoke were blowing across the highway, causing traffic to back up in each direction.

  • Spiegel: "No one was home at the time," but Frades' dog and three cats are missing. Firefighters evacuated several neighbors.

  • Spiegel says investigators are working to determine the cause of the blaze; the firefighters contained the flames at 5:30 p.m.; one firefighter sought medical treatment for possible heat exhaustion. (You later learn she has been released.)

  • A call to the National Weather Service reveals that winds were 5 mph and coming from the southeast, with gusts to 15 mph.

  • You later learn through a check at the county assessor's office that the estimated value of the house was $1.2 million.

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