Fire leaves TRE couple homeless

Topaz Ranch Estates homeowner Aretta Koch stood dazed on Tuesday morning as she watched the second home she's lived in over the past 20 years burn.

"I just can't believe this is the second time I have lost a home to fire," said Koch, known as A.J. to her friends.

She and her husband, Chris, lost a home to fire almost 20 years ago in Pittsburg, Calif.

"We were just re-doing everything in the place, new tile, new washer and dryer, everything,"

Koch, a cashier at Topaz Lodge and Casino, was doing chores in the back of the home as Chris Koch slept after coming off a graveyard shift.

"When I walked into the kitchen, the drapes in the dinning area were in flames, going straight up," she said. "I screamed, waking Chris up, and started to save the pets. I got our two dogs and our four pet ferrets in their cage. I wasn't able to save our fish. Poor little thing."

The suspected cause of the fire was a glass jar candle burning on the dining room table.

Koch's husband tried to extinguish the fire with a garden hose from the doorway of the home.

"It just got too hot," Chris Koch said. "I couldn't do it."

It was just a few minutes before Topaz Ranch Estates firefighters arrived at 3630 Sandstone Road, the scene of the fire.

"I was screaming at him to get away from the fire," Aretta said of Chris. "I was afraid he was going to get burned. I had called 911. I was screaming. That poor dispatcher, it seemed like forever until they got to us but I really know it was only minutes."

The call came into Station 4 at 11:10 a.m. Capt. Dave Norvell and his crew were the first firefighters on scene less than five minutes later.

"When we first got there I figured the structure would be unsavable," Norvell said "So we focused on getting the fire out but not letting it get to the vegetation surrounding the home."

Firefighters from Topaz Lake and Ruhenstroth arrived to help contain the fire. A crew from the Gardnerville Ranchos was on its way, but was called off.

"We were able to squirt some water on the fire and get it under control," Norvell said, keeping the fire to a 50 percent loss of the structure. "We were able to call off the Ranchos crew before they needed to respond. The structure is still a total loss because mobile homes are just not rebuildable."

The Topaz Lodge and Casino is providing a home to the Koches and their pets until they find someplace to live, according to casino controller Deanna Newman.

"This is something the lodge has done for many people displaced by fires and other natural causes in the past," she said.

Red Cross volunteers, Yvonne Liddell from Carson City and Kelley Hopkins from Dayton were also quick to respond to the needs of the displaced family.

"After the fire was extinguished, the Koches were excited to find that some of their precious mementos, wedding pictures and family treasures, were still OK, found in the back half of the house," Norvell said.


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