An 1890s-era barn in San Juan Capistrano was on the verge of collapse Thursday after erupting in flames around 10:30 a.m.
The Cook Historic Barn was engulfed by smoke and fire when firefighters arrived at 10:41 a.m., five minutes after the blaze was reported, Battalion Chief Kris Concepcion said. Three to four people were on the property at the time but got to safety on their own, he said.
The barn, which was built in 1898, could fall down at any moment, said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Marc Stone. "Because it's so old, because of the water pressure," the building will likely collapse, Stone said.
Teresa Cook, who said her great-great-great grandfather built the barn and whose father is a part owner, had been living at the barn on and off for the last year. Her family was in the process of converting the barn from an event venue to a residence, and they've been trying to live off the land, growing vegetables and raising chickens, she said.
Cook said she left the barn about an hour before the fire started to take her son to preschool.
"That's what so sickening; we could have been in there," she said. "Everyone always says it's a tinderbox."
Nash Elliot, who lives across the street, said he saw someone release chickens from the barn as the blaze broke out (silkie chickens and rabbits live on the property). A rooster could be heard crowing on the street.
Six fire engines, two trucks and 30 firefighters battled the fire, Concepcion said. The blaze was largely extinguished by 11:20 a.m., although flames and smoke were still coming from the roof and interior at 11:50 a.m.
"Because of the volume of the fire, we had to go into what we call defensive mode," he said. The blaze was driven by the winds, he said. An extra fire engine was sent downwind in case the blaze spread, he said.
The Cook Historic Barn was built by RC. Russell Cook.
- Related story:
The barn isn’t on its original spot, having been moved by the city about 100 yards to make way for Del Obispo Terrace. Its current address is 32232 Del Obispo St.
The barn's neighbors include a church that houses a preschool and a senior care center. People in those buildings were asked to stay inside.