Scott and Cindy Varnado live on Miwok Avenue in the Indian Lakes area of Coarsegold. Scott was out working on some plumbing in the garage when Cindy’s mom, Mary Norris, looked out her bedroom window and saw smoke.
“At first I thought perhaps it was just condensation as the day warmed up, but the white smoke turned darker, and then I saw the flames,” said Cindy as she and her mom watched their 3-bedroom home burn from the front lawn this morning.
The fire broke out at about 11 a.m., and after calling 911, Cindy hurried to get Mary out of the house as the fire spread quickly from the garage to the home itself.
“Mom wanted to put her shoes on but I told her we didn’t have time,” said Cindy, standing next to her mom who was seated in a lawn chair in her red slippers. There wasn’t even time to grab her purse or the anti-seizure medication Cindy takes after having brain surgery five years ago.
Scott’s Ford F250 caught fire and the tires exploded at intervals as firefighters worked to contain the blaze. Fortunately, says Cindy, they have another vehicle; the RV was a total loss.
“We used to do catering, and my husband was going to use that one for a smoker,” said Cindy indicating the empty tank. She was thankful that Scott was at home when the fire started.
“He works in engineering at the casino, on the graveyard shift,” she said. “I guess he won’t be going to work today.”
“To see these men in action is amazing,” she said, noting that both her father and grandfather served as volunteer firefighters in southern California.
As she and her mom sat watching the firefighters work, a sheriff’s deputy brought over a stack of family photos that had survived the flames, though they were damp and charred around the edges.
The two women began looking through the photos, sometimes smiling at the faces that smiled back at them from the blackened images.
“I am very quickly learning that these are just material things,” said Cindy matter-of-factly. “We had a lot of expensive things all throughout the house, and this is shocking, but at the end of the day, they’re just material items. What matters is that nobody was hurt.”
The couple had plans to begin remodeling the master bathroom, then move on to re-doing the kitchen.
“Well, I guess it just got remodeled for us,” said Cindy, accepting the reality.
The firefighters kept the fire from spreading to any of the surrounding homes, and PG&E responded to secure the power lines. The Red Cross was also at the scene before the fire was even out, to make sure the family has everything they need and is taken care of.
The family cat was unaccounted for at the time, but they’re hoping she ran off and will be found soon, or will come home on her own.
“She may be lost, but at least if she is, she’s okay,” said Cindy.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.