Donner Party home destroyed in suspicious San Jose fire
SAN JOSE (AP) ” A historic Victorian-era home that once housed a surviving member of the Donner party was destroyed in a blaze that fire officials called highly suspicious.
The building, which was boarded up and home to an unknown number of squatters, was reported ablaze around 4 a.m. Thursday. Police arriving on the scene escorted the squatters out and reported no injuries.
The home was named a city landmark in 2001 because of its architecture and historically significant owners. It once housed a San Jose mayor, Sherman Otis Houghton, and his wife, Eliza Donner Houghton.
Eliza Donner was one of five daughters of George and Tamsen Donner, who starved to death when their expedition was paralyzed by a blizzard in the Sierra Nevada in 1846-47.
Fire Battalion Chief Jose Guerrero said the 1881 home lacked fire stops or other modern protective measures and was completely engulfed in flames when crews arrived.
Guerrero called the blaze “highly suspicious” because the building was boarded up and had no electricity or gas.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, he said.