"There were two occupants at the home. One called to report the fire. Engine 31 was the first on the scene and found the home fully involved. We did a defensive attack on the fire," French stated.
French explained that a defensive attack is undertaken when a fire has already reached a certain size. "If it was a smaller fire, we'd gain entry and attack it from inside as well, but because it was fully involved we had to attack it from the outside in."
One of the occupants, identified as John Gallups, 38, suffered burns to his hands and face in the fire and had to be transported to San Ramon Valley Regional Hospital by paramedics. He has since been transferred to San Francisco General Hospital, where he was listed as stable and recovering.
Gallups and his wife were the only two people at the home when the fire broke out. After calling in the alarm they fled to the street outside.
Three engines, two trucks and two paramedics responded to the scene of the two-alarm fire. French said firefighters were able to get the blaze under control within 45 minutes.
The 2,200-square-foot home was nearly a total loss, with only parts of the structure still standing. In addition, a fence near the home, the garage and a vehicle were extensively damaged. Damage to the structure was estimated at $750,000, while damage to the contents of the home was estimated at $250,000.
French said they were not certain how the tree caught fire, and investigators are continuing to look for a cause. She added that residents are strongly recommended to safely dispose of their trees after the holiday.
"When the tree becomes dry and brittle to the touch, it's best to get it out of the house," she said. "Store it safely away from your home until it can be disposed of."
Each year firefighters across the United States respond to about 240 Christmas tree-related house fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Between 2003 and 2006, Christmas tree fires caused an average of 16 deaths, 25 injuries and more than $13 million damage each year, the association reported.