Tom Savage and the Sausalito House Fire

In 1992 I went off to England with my Mary to go pick up my *new* Dipper concertina and attend Concertinas at Witney.

Our friend Tom Savage had been working as a shipwright a little north of us on an historic boat, The Wapama, that was in drydock in the Sausalito Marinship works, and getting to live aboard it as part of his compensation.

For some odd reason, probably liability, they cut his live-aboard benefits quite abruptly, leaving him homeless. Mary and I jumped in and offered Tom a sewing room in our basement as a place. He did a marvelous job renovating the space and making it a home.

Back to our trip to the UK. We left our 17 year old son Paul in care of the magnificent Edwardian apartment we had on the shore of the bay in Sausalito. The 17 number is very key part in this story.

Paul was in charge. He had a job at the Golden Gate market directly across the street that kept him busy. On the first Friday night after we left he had his girlfriend Rose over and they were having a romantic evening in front of the fire, enjoying the Duroflame log he had brought home from work. It was not burning romantically enough for Paul, so he went down to the basement and got a quart mayonnaise jar full of gasoline. Just as you can imagine, when he poured it slowly on the burning log the flame climbed the stream and the top surface of the gas started burning. Thinking quickly, he gingerly walked through the house to the back deck, with the surface of the liquid burning brightly and splashing occasionally on the white-painted wainscoting and ancient linoleum. The back porch was three stories above the yard and parking lot.

As he threw the burning jar off it formed an incendiary explosion and luckily none of the cars below caught fire.

Not sure exactly when, but soon after Tom came up from his basement lair and helped clean up after the fires inside the house. Later he scraped and repainted the wainscoting and brought it back to its original condition.

The only real damage that was left visible was a dinner plate sized burn in the linoleum that had to have been 50 years old at that point.

When we returned from out trip Paul sheepishly told us the whole story. We were sad, but thought that was the end of the story.

A few weeks later our landlady, Ella, was shopping at the grocery store across the street when the owner, Irv, said to her “that was a heck of a fire you had in your rental house.” She said “what?” and the next thing we knew we were evicted ~!!

Even after losing the best ever place to live, our troubles were not over. The fire insurance company that covered the building gave the landlady $10,000 for that dinner plate-sized burn in the 50 year old linoleum in the kitchen. THEN I discovered the word “subrogation.” Since we had left our minor-aged son alone (remember 17?) WE were responsible for all and we had to pay them back ~!! They pestered Mary with phone calls every day while I was at work, and eventually I did settle with them for $3500. Sheesh.