RACINE — A car that smashed into a duplex in the Rubberville neighborhood early Saturday morning set the dwelling ablaze, caused an estimated $50,000 in damage, and led to the driver’s arrest.
But it could have been so much worse.
Police and fire officials reported the crash occurred at about 1:40 a.m. at 3401-03 Victory Ave. When police arrived, both the duplex and vehicle were on fire. The Racine Fire Department reported that the car went through the front of the house and caused major fire and structural damage to the duplex.
Neighbor Trudie Cudney, who lives on the other side of Victory Avenue, described hearing the crash.
“I was in the house, and I heard a loud bang,” she said. “My husband said, ‘Hey, that sounded like next door,’ and I said, ‘No, that sounded too loud.’”
She went outside, called 911, and saw the front end of a car — Cudney described it as a 2015 or 2016 “decked out” Dodge Charger with Harley-Davidson license plates — embedded in the front of the duplex. It had evidently just come off of Blaine Avenue which leads almost directly to the duplex.
The dwelling’s co-owner, Richard Becker, said the houses of Rubberville all have poured-concrete basements — not cinder block — that are 8 to 10 inches thick. The car knocked in 20 to 25 percent of that solid foundation wall, he said.
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Soon after arriving at the scene, Cudney said, “I turned around and saw a flame from the car, and I said it was starting on fire … The flames went bigger within seconds,” while the driver was trying to pull his female passenger out of the car.
The fire was contained to the east side of the duplex, apparently by the poured-concrete walls that Becker described. He said they extend down the middle, between the two sides, to create a firewall.
The renters — a woman, her mother and two children — of the east side of the duplex, the one that was set ablaze, were not home Friday night. “And thank God they were not home,” Becker said. “It could have been disastrous.”
The occupants of the duplex’s west side were home but quickly and safely left for the night.
Becker said the fire also could have been much greater than it was. Throughout Rubberville “90 percent of the gas meters are on the front,” he said. “This one is on the west side. If it had been on the front side, that house probably would not be there, and probably part of the block would not be there. It would have been a hell of an explosion.”
Cudney said she saw police handcuff and arrest the car’s driver, and also his female companion. Their names were not available from police Saturday.
Montoya said the duplex will need new windows, new siding, and she assumed there was extensive interior damage.
According to police, there was another dwelling struck by a vehicle Saturday morning. The second accident occurred at about 4 a.m. when a female driver lost control and her vehicle struck a residence in the 1900 block of Carlisle Avenue.
Although the only damage noted to the dwelling was to a gas meter, the driver, the sole occupant of the vehicle, was injured and transported for treatment, police said.