Police are eliminating a natural gas leak as one of the possible causes of an explosion and house fire on East Angela Street early last month, but remain tight-lipped as they continue their investigation.
Sgt. Jim Knox said, "It appears that there was no gas leak at this point," and added, "I can't give a lot of detail because it's still pertinent to the investigation."
Knox said police haven't been in touch with Deonna Zuffa, 40, who was seriously injured in the fire and is receiving care at the St. Francis Memorial Hospital burn center in San Francisco. Last week, she was listed in serious, but stable condition.
The blaze broke out in the 800 block Dec. 8 after a loud explosion that shook the neighborhood. Zuffa, who was the only one home at the time of the fire, received second- and third-degree burns. The flames, which at their peak reached the height of the power poles, also spread to two neighboring homes, displacing another family.
Last week, police for the first time classified the fire as having a "suspicious" nature, but said little more. The Zuffa family, which also includes Deonna Zuffa's husband Keith and their two sons, owned classic cars and go-karts, which they stored in their three-car garage along with gasoline containers. Sgt. Knox declined to say whether the containers may have ignited the blaze.
Records show the single-story, four bedroom home, which was built in 1996, was sold for $75,000 in a foreclosure sale on Sept. 30 to Marilyn and Richard Greenberg, or the Greenberg Trust. The 2,300-square-foot home has a market value of $940,000.
The Zuffas filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy on June 2, 2008, according to records from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Oakland. The case was dismissed on Oct. 30, but it is still considered an open matter and a future court date of Feb. 9, 2009 exists, a deputy court commissioner confirmed. A notice of trustee sale was issued for the home last May 2.
A house will go into foreclosure if a homeowner misses three consecutive mortgage payments. California foreclosure law states that on the day that was established for sale of the property, and only after all publication period requirements have been met, the property can be sold to the highest bidder for cash for the full amount of the debt plus a foreclosure fee and expenses. If no one bids at the trustee's sale, the property automatically reverts back to the beneficiary for the debt.
It's unclear what relationship the Greenbergs had with the Zuffas. The Greenbergs are mentioned in court records pertaining to the Zuffas as far back as 2003. Knox declined to comment on their relationship.
A Realtor experienced in working with foreclosures said it's not uncommon for homeowners to remain in their home after filing for bankruptcy because a bank cannot foreclose on the property for another six to nine months after a declaration.