COARSEGOLD – If ever you must go through the anguish of having your home destroyed by fire, may you be blessed with good neighbors.
Just after 7 p.m. on Monday, Mar. 24, Harvey White and his roommate Kim were in their home on Blackfoot Road just off Road 417 in Indian Lakes, when they heard the sound of glass breaking outside on the deck.
When Harvey stepped outside to investigate, he discovered that the side of the house was in flames, and the sounds of glass breaking was the solar globes on the deck exploding due to the heat of the fire.
He grabbed the nearby hose and began trying to douse the flames, but soon realized that this would not be enough to extinguish the fire, and he yelled to Kim to call 911.
About this time, a neighbor who was visiting across the road saw smoke, and ran to Harvey’s house to investigate. Gene Avery owns the house just behind Harvey on Apache Road.
“I thought it was a grass fire,” said Gene, who also called 911 to report the blaze. “But then I saw that just below the deck it was burning real hot. It was just cherry red.” And the inside of the house was filling up with smoke.
Harvey yelled to Gene that Kim was still in the house, and grabbed a metal table to smash the sliding glass door to get her out. But Kim was already moving away from the smoke and towards the back of the house.
“I’ve locked us out of the place on several occasions, and Kim remembered the drill,” said Harvey. “She climbed up and took the screen off the window and jumped out.” It was at least 10 feet to the ground, but she managed to escape without injury.
Meanwhile, Gene was grabbing up the 5-gallon propane bottles he saw on the property – for the BBQ and the trailers in the back yard – and dragged them out toward the road and away from the heat of the fire. Gene said the fire just took off, and when the windows began to crack, he decided it was time to put some space between himself and the house.
At least a dozen other neighbors had by now converged on the property, and were pitching in any way they could. As fire engines began to arrive, neighbors helped to block off the road and direct traffic.
Madera County Fire Department’s Engine 17 out of O’Neals, was first on scene, as they were covering Station 8 near the Chukchansi Casino. Engine 12 out of Oakhurst and Squad 10 from Yosemite Lakes Park also responded, along with Water Tender 13 and Cal Fire Engines 4214, 4275 and 4284. Water Tender 16 also responded, though they were called off when firefighters were able to connect to a hydrant on the corner at Cherokee Road.
Madera County’s BS14 (Breathing Support Unit) was also dispatched to the fire. It provides a remote air supply and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) bottles, which allowed firefighters to enter the smoke-filled house.
Though every effort was made to knock down the fire as quickly as possible, most of the structure and the belongings inside were lost to the flames.
Harvey was pragmatic about the loss of his home of 23 years, though the loss of his collection of guitars was a little tougher to take. From a Martin D-28 to a Taylor 400 and a 12-string Epiphone, he had amassed a treasured assortment of guitars, which he used to entertain at weddings and events throughout the Yosemite area.
Dating himself as “67 next month,” Harvey said at least he still has his van, which is filled with his camping equipment. But he won’t have to resort to that out of necessity, as a neighbor did not hesitate to offer him and Kim a place to stay.
Fortunately, the home was insured. As for the cause of the fire, it is under investigation.