Mother’s instinct is credited with saving house from fire
A mother’s instinct probably saved the Fish Springs home of Richard and Gloria Reeves early Wednesday morning.
Asleep with a house full of holiday company, Gloria awoke after midnight to a “crackling sound” and got up to investigate.
“I’m not really a light sleeper, but I think I still have that mother’s instinct to listen for danger,” said the 45-year-old mother of two grown children. “It sounded like an electrical noise, and when I got up, I saw this orange glow out the window.”
“When we looked out the window, we thought the whole house was on fire,” Richard said. “It was pretty scary.”
Shifting into fast gear, everyone rallied to get the situation under control in spite of the middle-of-the-night hour.
“My sister (Alberta Ives) said, ‘We’ve got a problem here,'” Gloria related. “Then the lights went out.”
Because the power was out, the electric water pump and the telephones were inoperable, she said.
“My daughter’s boyfriend, Chris Miller, quickly ran and scaled a fence to wake the neighbors and have them call 911 – he really sprang into action,” Gloria said. “We have a car phone, but didn’t think of it at the time.”
n Getting out of the cold. Due to sub-zero temperatures, Reeves worried about her houseguests, particularly her mother, 80-year-old Marian Skobis, standing out in the cold in pajamas and coats.
“My sister was so fast, though, she had the dogs in the car, and my mom and daughter, Suni, so we could go to my nieces’ house in the Ranchos,” Gloria said. “It was too cold to have my mother out there – it was 9 below zero or something like that. When we left, I thought to myself, ‘I’m not going to look back and watch. I’m not going to watch my house burn down.’ We passed the fire trucks coming in as we left.”
Stopping at the Fish Springs fire station on the way out, Gloria said she was reassured that everything would be handled by professionals.
“We stopped and I told them, ‘My house is burning down,’ and they were great. They said, ‘Don’t worry, stay away from the house and we’ll handle it,'” she said.
Richard felt the response from firefighters was quick, especially considering the time of day and the icy temperatures.
“The fire department got here pretty quick,” he said. “There were a lot of trucks here – they did a good job. We didn’t have water because the power went out, so we were kind of helpless.”
n Cause of fire. The fire was started by a space heater in the pump house on the property at 2202 Jacobsen Lane, according to East Fork Fire Captain-Inspector Terry Taylor, who was on site most of the night.
“It’s almost a tradition every year that we get some kind of a fire cause by a space heater that burns up a Christmas tree or something like that,” he said. “It’s a tradition we’d like to break.”
Personnel and equipment from Fish Springs, Gardnerville Ranchos, Ruhenstroth, and the East Fork Fire Paramedics responded to the fire, Taylor said.
Reeves said the space heater was set in the pump house to remedy a problem from the day before.
“We’d had a leak the day before because the pipes froze, – I think it was 6 degrees below zero – so we put a space heater by the pump and it must have caught fire from some insulation nearby,” he said.
The pump house and nearby shed were destroyed by the fire, with damages estimated at $7,500. Both buildings’ contents, which included storage items and camping equipment in addition to landscaping tools from Reeves’ business, Big Valley Landscape, were lost.
“It is strange, because my daughter, who works at Kirkwood, decided to come home (Tuesday night) and she said she just felt she needed to be home, almost like a premonition,” Gloria said.
The Reeves moved to the Carson Valley four years ago from Los Angeles. This was their first experience with freezing pipes and pump house fires.
“We won’t forget this Christmas,” Gloria said. “I’ve never had a fire before, never had a pump house, never had pipes that freeze. I know we were very lucky not to lose the house.”
Taylor said that if the fire on the side of the garage had spread into the attic, the house could very well have been lost.
“They really were lucky,” he said. “A few more minutes and we’d have had trouble.”
The space heater was set about two feet from the well tank, Taylor said, which is really a bit too close given the fact that space heaters have an unfocused radiant heat. Fire marshals recommend safer alternatives to space heaters, such as heat tape or heating lamps, but residents have been known to use some unorthodox heating techniques over the years, he lamented.
n Taylor’s tips to stay safe. Taylor said a few precautions can make a big difference if homeowners would follow these rules:
n Never use hand held torches to thaw pipes inside buildings
n Never energize copper pipes with an arc welder “I’m not making this up,” Taylor said.)
n Keep the heat on at night in your home – around 65 degrees.
n Keep space heaters or heat lamps at least four feet away from combustibles. Make sure they are well wired and well secured.
n Pizza Factory close call. A fire call to the Pizza Factory at 811 Short Court in the Gardnerville Ranchos Wednesday night prompted Taylor to offer reminders to both business and home owners that any frozen pipes and resultant water leakages could cause a blueprint for a future fire.
“If your water pipes break and water flows into the electrical system, be sure to shut off the water and also the electricity,” he said. “If water gets into the electrical system it could cause a bridge and a fire later,” he said.
When frozen pipes caused water to flow into the system at the Pizza Factory building, the alarm system automatically called the fire department, Taylor said.
For the Reeves, trying to live without power and water has proved to be a challenge, but not one that will ruin their holiday.
“We won’t forget this one,” gloria said. “Never a dull moment around here. We’re just glad no one got hurt.”
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