Burned-out family harbors no animosity | RecordCourier.com

Burned-out family harbors no animosity

by Andy Bourelle

The owners of the Gardnerville Ranchos home which was engulfed in flames last week have forgiven the neighbor who inadvertently caused the fire by burning weeds with an acetelyne torch.

“I felt sorry for him, actually, because I saw how guilt-ridden he was. I told him I’m not mad at him, that I forgive him,” said Patrick Simmons, owner of the home at 1292 Franklin Lane in the Ranchos.

The neighbor reportedly was burning weeds Friday evening when a strong breeze spread the fire to a fence and on to the Simmonses’ roof.

“If you set my house on fire on purpose, that’s one thing, but this was an accident, and no one was hurt. I wasn’t angry,” Simmons said.

The neighbor attempted to extinguish the fire with a garden hose, but his efforts were fruitless.

Firefighters from the Douglas County Engine Co., Gardnerville and Gardnerville Ranchos fire departments responded when the fire was reported about 5:45 p.m., but the house was reportedly three-fourths involved before any responders were able to get there.

The Simmonses – Patrick, wife Suzanne and their children, Eddie, 9, Eric, 4, and Samantha, 3 – were in Carson City at the time.

The fire was under control when the Simmonses arrived around 7 p.m., but their home was destroyed.

“My reaction was complete and total surprise,” Simmons said. “My wife, I think, was more shocked than I was. She broke down and cried. I was talking with the deputies on scene, because I work with them, trying to get information about what was going on. I tried to put my emotions on the back burner so I could think clearly.”

Simmons has been a deputy in the jail division of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office since the end of March, and he and his family had only moved into the home at the end of April.

The family has lived in the Ranchos since 1996. They were renting previously, Simmons said, and had only recently been in a situation where they could purchase a home. The house was insured, but they lost numerous important items – photographs, family videos, baby books, birth certificates and more.

“Probably the hardest thing for the kids was that our kitty cat died in the fire,” Simmons said. “For the kids, that’s probably what upset them the most.”

The Simmonses are staying with Suzanne’s mother while they look for a place to rent temporarily. The family has been helped out by the Red Cross, members of the sheriff’s office and another group of people – other county residents.

“All the support from the community has been overwhelming,” Simmons said. “People I don’t even know have given us their support and their prayers. It says a lot about the community.”

DCSO is accepting financial donations for the family, which can be sent to Patrick Simmons, P.O. Box 218, Minden, 89423 or dropped off at the sheriff’s office at the Judicial and Law Enforcement Building in Minden. Also, residents who want to help can call the residence of Suzanne Simmons’ mother, Sita Clay, at 265-1975.

Simmons said he is appreciative of all the support they have received.

“We’re going to pray to God to bless them one hundred-fold for their generosity,” he said. “I can’t put into words how helpful and kind everyone’s been.”

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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