Donations have begun pouring into Pleasanton Middle School offices for the Zuffa family, which has been displaced by a fire that ravaged their East Angela Street home Monday morning.
Two fundraising efforts are under way simultaneously--the PMS Parent Faculty Assocation is collecting cash, checks, gift cards and clothing donations on behalf of the family; and family friend Andrew Ochoa, a seventh-grader at the middle school, has donation boxes at PMS, Valley View Elementary School and Tully's coffee shop downtown on Main Street. He's going to be setting up a booth from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the downtown Farmers' Market, where he will be taking both monetary and clothing donations.
Officials are still investigating what caused a loud explosion that led to the fire. At home at the time, Deonna "De" Zuffa, 40, suffered second- and third-degree burns and is recovering at St. Francis Memorial Hospital's burn center in San Francisco.
The Zuffa family, which also includes dad Keith, and sons Justin, a junior last year at Amador Valley High School, and Devon, a seventh-grader at Pleasanton Middle School, has lost all of their belongings, everything from clothing to photographs. They are currently staying with a relative.
Andrew Ochoa, 12, a friend of Devon's, was the first to get the bad news after his dad called him at lunch saying the Zuffa home was in flames.
It didn't take long for the 12-year-old to figure out what to do. After leaving school early that day, being so upset, he immediately got on his computer and began designing and printing flyers to post around the neighborhood asking for donations, clothing or monetary.
"They lost everything," Andrew said Wednesday. "They're going to need a lot of help."
When asked why he wanted to do this for the Zuffas, he said "I knew (Devon) would have done this for me."
The pair have been friends since the third grade. Specifically, Andrew said the family's clothing needs include: shoes sizes 5 1/2 and 10; small or medium-sized boy's youth shirts; 14 regular sized pants; medium or large-size adult men's shirts and size 32 pants.
The response has so far been very positive. As of Wednesday at lunchtime, Andrew said he's collected $330 in cash and over $400 in gift cards and assorted clothing donations. One man was said to have dropped off a $1,000 check at the middle school Tuesday.
Firefighters got the call about the fire at 10:38 a.m. and responded three minutes later, according to fire spokeswoman Sabina Imrie. A total of five engines and 22 firefighters approached the house, which was engulfed in flames. One neighbor said the flames were as high as the power poles. Imrie said Pleasanton police who happened to be in the neighborhood at the time witnessed Deonna Zuffa running out of her home and rushed to help her and put a blanket around her.
Joe Buckovic, a former Pleasanton police sergeant, lives a few houses down from the home, located in the 800 block of East Angela and directly across the street from St. Augustine Catholic Church, and saw the incident unfold.
"I heard a big bang," he said. "It shook the whole block. I saw a woman was laying on the ground in the middle of the street with burns on her body."
Imrie said the family has two dogs, which weren't home at the time of the fire.
"She was just taking them to the groomers, so the dogs were out of the house," Imrie said.
The fire was contained at 11:30 a.m., 50 minutes after firefighters first began attacking the flames. The single-story house, which is valued on some real estate websites at about $938,000, is considered a total loss. Keith Zuffa owned at least one muscle car, which was also destroyed, Imrie said.
"(The fire is) under investigation at this time, but the fire was significant enough where it actually damaged two houses next door, the one on the left and one on the right," Imrie said. "One had the exterior scorched and the other had roof damage."