Explosion rocks Tivoli Cove

Even before the window crashed beside her, Lovelle Fuhrman thought something was wrong. Her daughter Ivy woke her Tuesday morning saying the windows were making funny noises and she was scared.

Fuhrman said she exchanged places with her daughter; they were all sleeping on a futon on the floor because their furniture had not yet arrived from storage. The family had moved into the Tivoli Cove apartment with just the mattress, a few pillows, sheets and blankets, and plastic bags full of clothes two days before.

“We were all sleeping again when we heard a huge boom,” Fuhrman said. “The glass came crashing down right beside us.”

The force of the blast hurled a sliding glass door through the guardrail on the deck and into the street below, tore wallboard from the ceiling, followed the fireplace flu upwards inflicting almost identical damage to the unit upstairs and finally blew the covering off the chimney on the roof of the building.

Miraculously, no one was injured.

“When I came into the living room, I smelled gas and saw smoke pouring out of the fireplace,” Fuhrman said.

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Fuhrman’s older daughter Danika Merlo, 15, who had checked out the fire extinguisher when they moved in, grabbed it and put out the fire.

“When I woke up, Panda Bear, our Border Collie, was shaking and he was lying on top of us under the blankets,” she said. “He’s not very brave; he must have known something bad was happening.”

Upstairs, Joseph Guidera said he heard the boom and thought it was an earthquake. “I looked out the window and saw the broken glass, the sliding doors and smelled the smoke and saw smoke coming from the fireplace. It must have been about 7:30, because my alarm was set for 8 and it hadn’t gone off yet.”

Guidero said he then went downstairs to see where the smoke was coming from and to see if any one was hurt.

Firefighters from station 71 arrived and shut off the gas. Capt. Don Schwaiger said there was no shut-off valve for the fireplace, which uses an ignitor. Fuhrman said no one had put wood in the fireplace. She pointed to a wall heater on the adjacent wall and said, “We had been told by the other tenant the wall heater did not work.”

Sheriff’s Deputy Frank Bausmith said they had knocked on the doors of several adjacent units to tell tenants what had happened. “They had probably all left for work,” he said. “Only the two residents were asked to evacuate.”

After an extensive inspection, Schwaiger said there was no structural damage to the exterior of the building. “The windows took the brunt of it. The force of the blast blew the outside of the chimney off. There was no damage to the basement.

“When gas is leaking, it doesn’t take much of a spark — a light switch, a heater switching on or off, even static electricity,” Schwaiger said. “But everyone was asleep, no one was walking around turning things on.”

Fuhrman said she couldn’t believe they weren’t hurt, but was shocked at the mess. “We just paid for the new paint job and cleaned everything,” she said, surveying the smoke smudges and broken wall board. “And there are pistachio nuts all over the floor. I can’t figure out where they came from.”

Red Cross workers arrived to make arrangements for the family.

Craig George, the city’s senior building inspector, had not completed his investigation into possible causes of the gas leak and explosion Tuesday afternoon.

13StarsManager
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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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