A San Jose State football player is in critical condition after escaping from his burning apartment.
Jared Leaf, a junior Spartans linebacker, suffered second-degree burns on his back and arms as he ran through his apartment near the SJSU campus in an attempt to escape.
Firefighters are investigating whether a student lit a candle and ditched a match on a couch while talking on his cell phone just before the fire broke out about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night.
San Jose Fire Capt. Fernando Munoz said investigators think that match is likely the cause of the blaze, which displaced 11 people and injured Leaf, who is hospitalized at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. He is expected to survive.
The fire started in a third-floor unit on East Williams Street near the SJSU campus. A second alarm was quickly issued. The fire was under control by 12:20 a.m. Thursday.
Leaf’s roommate Clarence Chima said he stepped out of his apartment for only a few minutes to talk to his sister on his cell phone when he saw smoke. He said, when he looked inside, he saw the couch on fire and a wall of flames. That’s when he used his cell phone to immediately call his roommate, Leaf, who was asleep in a back bedroom.
“He was saying the living room and kitchen were in flames, so there were no options but to run through,” Chima said. “And that’s how he got the injuries he had.”
Chima said the fire destroyed everything inside the apartment.
Neighbor Shawn Balcorta was returning home when he saw the flames.
“I looked up and there was fire everywhere, and there were people running out saying 'fire' and then there were other people running out as well,” Balcorta said.
Chima said, after alerting Leaf, he started pounding on neighbors' door, telling them to get out, too. He shared this apartment with Leaf and two other San Jose State students who were not home at the time of the fire.
One displaced student was shaken up afterward.
"I saw a little flames on [Leaf's] back," Ben Kung said. "I hope he's all right."