To the Kochs: Keep on keepin' on

There is a wonderful revelation that comes to everyone with the small community mentality like ours in Topaz Ranch Estates, and that is, "When a neighbor is in need, there is always other neighbors there to help."

Such is the case for the Koch family, A.J. and Chris, who were burned out of their home Tuesday when one of the unattended sweet smelling candles A.J. left burning on her dining room table burned through the table and destroyed their home.

Tuesday, Captain/Paramedic Dave Norvell, a member of a two-man crew on duty for a 24-hour shift at the newly designated East Fork Fire Station 4 in Topaz Ranch Estates, was one of the first responders to the residential fire at 3630 Sandstone Road.

Topaz Lake Station 5 was next on the scene with an engine and water tender followed by a responding water tender from Ruhenstroth with Gardnerville Ranchos standing by.

A.J., a cashier at Topaz Lodge and Casino, said she had been in the back of the house doing some of her morning chores. As something she typically did when she was at home, she had several glass jar candles she got from her mother who sells them lit in the front of the home. When she came into the kitchen she saw the curtains near the dining room table fully engulfed in flame. She screamed to her husband Chris who had just gone to sleep after coming home from working a graveyard shift.

Chris ran for the garden hose and tried to douse the flames. A.J. gathered their two chihuahaus, Puppy and Baby, and four pet ferrets who were luckily in their cage away from the fire at the time. The only thing she was unable to save from the house was her pet fish.

While Chris stood in the doorway of the home with the garden hose in a futile attempt to stop the fire, A.J. called 911. The response time from Station 4 was incredible. The call was received in the TRE Station 4 at 11:10 a.m. and units were on the scene of the fire in less than five minutes. Friends and neighbors also gathered quickly to offer any help they could but other than moral support for the Kochs, fire suppression was left to the professionals and the home was inaccessible for the removal of any personal belongings.

"It seemed like forever until they (the fire department) got to us but I really know it was only minutes." she said.

The fire was contained to the front part of the house. The living room, dining area, kitchen and laundry room were a total loss but other than smoke damage, the bedrooms were untouched. A.J. and Chris were happy to find that some of their family treasures and photographs had survived the fire.

"Topaz Lodge and Casino has given the Kochs and their pet-family lodging until they find someplace to live," Deanna Newman, controller for Topaz Lodge and Casino said.

Red Cross volunteers, Yvonne Liddell from Carson City and Kelley Hopkins from Dayton were also on hand to offer aid for the displaced family.

Deputy Fire Chief Steve Eisele, after careful inspection of the burned remains, patiently explained his opinion of how the fire might have started and it is a warning to all of us who love those beautiful scented candles.

By A.J.'s own account, she had a lot of pretty candles in glass jars that her mother sold for extra income. Feeling they were safe because they were contained in the jars, as the candles would burn down, she would place a small votive candle in the burned out hole to extend the life of the candle. What she, and a lot of us don't know, is that when the wax of the original candle burns away, it gets closer to the glass, it weakens the glass until it breaks and hot wax as well as the flame from the burning wick can start a fire. Chief Eisele said one of the major causes of house fires is candles.

Immediately, after the news of the fire spread throughout TRE, monetary donations started collecting at Topaz Lodge to help the Kochs.

I can't believe how quickly people responded with donations to help," Newman said. "We weren't prepared for such a quick response to their situation.

A collection point will be established for things the community wants to donate to help them and will be announced as soon as it is determined. The Kochs are looking for a place they can temporarily rent until they can get their life in place again. For anyone wishing to help the family, they can be contacted through Topaz Lodge and Casino, 266-3338

So, until next week ... and for the Koch family, just keep on, keepin' on.

n Jonni Hill can be reached through The Record-Courier at or by calling 782-5121, ext. 213, or after hours at


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