GARDNERVILLE RANCHOS -- A fast-moving fire destroyed three homes and left a fourth without electricity after flames raced through town homes in the Gardnerville Ranchos.
Tenant Maria Cruz said she was carrying laundry downstairs in her home in Sequoia Village at 1284 Redwood Circle when she felt an intense heat.
"I turned around and saw flames and then I realized it was fire and ran upstairs,"she said.
As she made her way screaming for her husband and children, she said the windows on the lower floor blew out.
"I just thought about my kids," she said, still shaken.
Neighbor Tammy Taylor, a parent education coordinator with the Family Support Council of Douglas County, said she was awakened about 8:50 a.m. by the Cruz family's shouts.
"I heard screaming, the kind of screaming that is just not right," she recalled. As she looked out the window of her home she saw Maria and her husband putting their three children, ages 6, 5 and 18-months in the back of their pick up truck.
"When I got outside I saw in the front door and it was filled with flames," she said. "Then (Unit #6)exploded."
East Fork Fire District firefighters were able to contain the flames to the first three units of the six unit complex.
Unit #6 was gutted completely by the inferno, the heat from it scorching the siding and blowing out windows on the home 60 feet north of it. Taylor said a man lives there alone and was able to rescue his 22-year-old cat before the fire engulfed everything.
The Cruz's Unit #5 suffered irreparable damage, but the family was able to go inside to see if there was anything to salvage, Taylor said. They came out empty-handed.
"The upstairs was nothing but three feet of wet insulation. It's awful," she said.
Unit #4, where a husband, wife and their young daughter lived, also is uninhabitable, she said. The couple asked to not be identified.
The families were taken in for the night by relatives and friends.
Taylor immediately called Raley's Supermarket and asked them to donate breakfast foods for the half-dozen children and their parents who'd had been roused from their homes.
She laid the spread of donuts, fruit and juice out in front of her home as firefighters mopped up the fire.
"The parents couldn't eat anything, but at least the children could have something in their tummies," she said.
She also called her office and volunteers came down, bringing with them clothing from their thrift store. The families will be allowed to shop at the thrift store free of charge, Taylor said.
Family Support Council, at 1255 Waterloo Lane in Gardnerville, will be accepting donations for the families. An account will be set up to aid the families this morning, Taylor said. One neighbor already donated $20 to help them get back on their feet.
The Red Cross will also meet with the families at the Council offices, Taylor said.
"They've lost everything," she lamented. "It's a complete and total loss."
Deputy Fire Chief-EMS Bobby Wartgow said based on witness statements, a preliminary investigation finds the fire may have started outside the fenced backyard's of one of the homes.
"It was burning pretty good when we arrived," he said.
About 50 personnel were able to knock down the flames in 30 minutes.
"We kept it contained to the three units," he said. "Fortunately we were able to throw a lot of resources at it quickly."
The exact cause of the fire is under investigation.
"All the material stuff we can replace. It will take us a while, but we'll get back on our feet," said Maria Cruz who works for Carson Valley Inn. "One minute your fine and the next you don't know what's going to happen."
YOU CAN HELP:
Donations of furniture and clothing can be made to the Family Support Council of Douglas County at 1255 Waterloo Lane, Suite A. Gerardo Cruz, 6, wears size 7 clothing and size 13 shoes. Jose Cruz, 5, wears size 6 clothing and size 12 shoes. Cristao Cruz is an 18-month-old girl and wears size 2 toddler and size six shoes. For more information call the offices at 782-8692.