DESERT HILLS – At least one family was left homeless and a family pet was apparently killed in a house fire early Sunday afternoon.
Flames from the William Drive fire could be seen for miles just after noon Sunday. Firefighters from the Desert Hills and Lake Havasu City fire departments responded to the scene.
“When we arrived at William Drive, we saw that there were two structures on fire and two vehicles in the driveway on fire,” said Desert Hills Fire Captain David Rodriguez.
As reporters arrived at the scene, one home was destroyed with only a quarter of a carport left next to a charred foundation. The other home, which retained one wall and a collapsed roof, was extinguished but smoldering as firefighters continued to hose down its remains. No one was injured in the fire; however, Raul Viramontes, his wife and daughter lost their beloved pet in the blaze.
“We were out Christmas shopping and got a phone call from my landlord that there was a fire,” said Viramontes. “My little dog was inside. We had him for a lot of years so it’s sad. I guess we’re homeless now.”
No one was in either home at the time of the fire and the cause is currently unknown. No injuries were reported. Neighbors report smelling something burning before hearing a loud explosion. According to multiple nearby residents, there was a smell of burning wax for at least half an hour before the explosion occurred. Beverly Munson, who lives across the street, said she heard an explosion prior to the fire. “It was a huge bang,” she said. “I ran outside to the front of our house to see their car on fire and then it just took off.”
Because of Sunday’s windy conditions, flames spread rapidly from one home to the next, but two of the four fire engines on scene were assigned to a structure protection procedure to ensure falling embers did not catch any of the adjacent homes on fire, according to fire department officials. Because homes in the neighborhood are 40 to 50 years old, firefighters were not only concerned with the accelerated rate they could ignite but also with the chemicals that would reach the air.
“These old trailers have every chemical in the world wrong with them,” said Dan Curry, who lives next door to one of the residences. “They told my wife to get as far away as possible because the air is cancer.”
Volunteers with the Community Emergency Response Team did what they could to console the Viramontes family, offering concessions, a place to sit and a shoulder to cry on.
CERT members were also fundamental in assisting the firefighters as they worked to extinguish the fire and assess the situation.
“We don’t do any firefighting, we just help the firefighters prepare to go back” said Jerry Holdren, volunteer for CERT. “As one team battles the fire, another needs to take a break to cool down and revitalize. We have everything from cold water, snacks and Gatorade. We change their air bottles and give them cold towels.”
With two squads and four engines, each firefighter worked tirelessly for hours; however, their job is not complete without a proper investigation. That could take a couple of weeks, according to Rodriguez. “It’s all dependent on the type of fire and given that there is multiple vehicles and multiple structures, who knows. The good news is, is that not one adjacent building caught fire, so we were able to contain this to the two homes and the vehicles in the home. With the wind, it was pretty impressive that these guys were able to do that.”