According to a report in the Contra Costa Times, the fire that devastated Len Wein and Christine Valada's home yesterday was caused by "combustible items left next to an electric wall heater."
Writer Harlan Ellison shared more details on his website, saying "... a power surge apparently went through the electrical system of the house, shorting out a wall heater that had been in place in the bathroom since the house was built...an appurtenance no one even paid any attention to: it was invisible, like a countertop. But it sparked, caught fire, and the fire caught on towels, curtains, bathroom mat, magazines on the hamper, clothes, and raced up the walls and across the ceiling, into the hall, and into the bedroom where Len lay asleep. Michael, Chris's son, was dead asleep in the loft of the small bedroom."
Wein woke up Michael and ran from the house, but unfortunately their dog turned around and went back into the house to hide. The dog perished in the blaze.
Ellison said they had insurance, and added there wasn't anything anyone could do for them right now.
"Later...SOON...but LATER...you can help enormously when Len presents a cogent list of those items that are replaceable--many were unique and are gone forever, and that's that, so he'll come to terms with it in time--but lots of it is around, some more rare than other, but possible," Ellison wrote. "Hang back; just chill till Len lets us all know what he needs."
Evanier also posted about the fire, saying "At some point down the line though, when they're settled into new digs or a rebuilding of the old digs, I'd like to see if we can restore some of Len's book collection — particularly copies of things he worked on."
Wein, who was inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame last year, is the co-creator of Wolverine and Swamp Thing, and has written or edited just about every major character at both Marvel and DC. He and Dave Cockrum revitalized the X-Men, introducing Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus and Wolverine to the team in Giant Size X-Men #1, and he also edited Watchmen. His most recent work includes issues of Justice League, episodes of Ben 10: Alien Force for Cartoon Network and the video game Watchmen: The End is Nigh.
In regards to the upcoming X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie that opens in May, Tom Spurgeon wrote, "I further hope that perhaps the folks behind the new Wolverine movie can be convinced to lend a hand seeing as they're working with one of Wein's creations and he's been a genial advocate of their work with the character."