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Martinez ‘Christmas House’ Damaged By Fire Again; Gas Leak Capped

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Firefighters at the scene of a house fire on the 900 block of Walnut Ave. in Martinez, January 17, 2012. (CBS)

Firefighters at the scene of a house fire on the 900 block of Walnut Ave. in Martinez, January 17, 2012. (CBS)

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MARTINEZ (CBS SF) — A Martinez home affectionately known as the “Christmas House” that caught fire earlier this year burned again in another blaze early Tuesday morning, a fire official said.

Firefighters responded to the one-alarm fire at 910 Walnut Ave. just after 4 a.m. Fire crews had the blaze controlled a little more than half an hour later, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District spokesman Steve Aubert said.

PG&E spokeswoman Jana Morris said there was an exposed natural gas line at the house.

PG&E crews arrived, excavated the sidewalk in front of the home and shut off the flow of gas to the house by 8:30 a.m., PG&E spokesman Brian Swanson said.

The house had been vacant and uninhabitable since it was damaged by a separate fire on Jan. 17, Aubert said. It was set to be demolished this week in preparation of a restoration project, he said.

PG&E had shut off electricity to the house after the January fire, Swanson said. On Monday, PG&E crews had removed the gas meter from the house, per the owner’s request, he said.

The two-story home is owned by Joseph and Sharon Brock, a retired couple who have spent the past few decades decorating he house inside and out over the holidays with an elaborate display of lights, ornaments, dolls and more.

A pellet stove caused the January fire, which left the Brocks with nothing, Joseph Brock said today.

He said Tuesday’s fire is yet another blow.

“We’re devastated by the whole thing,” he said. “We don’t know why this is happening to us.”

Joseph, 68, and Sharon, 67, have lived in the home—formerly owned by Sharon’s mother—since 1965. They have spent 45 years collecting more than 1,000 ornaments and dolls, as well as 75,000 lights, and winning several contests in the process.

“Everything we worked so hard to collect over the course of our lives, we lost in one night,” Brock said of the January fire.

Joseph, who nearly died of smoke inhalation while helping fight that fire, said he and Sharon have been living in a rental home nearby since then.

Brock said he was awakened by a call from PG&E sometime after 4 a.m. Tuesday informing him about the fire. He arrived at the house a short time later and watched as it burned again.

“This fire was three times worse than the one in January,” he said.

Brock said he and his wife still intend to rebuild the home but are unsure how they will finance it. They are hoping for help or donations, he said.

The cause of Tuesday’s fire remains under investigation.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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