DAYTON - Two families, including seven children, were left homeless Friday after a fast-moving blaze leveled one rental home and left another uninhabitable.
"The fire ran into both attics. They're a total loss," said Bob Kielty, training officer with the Central Lyon County Fire District.
Michael L'Africain said he was at work in Incline Village when he received a phone call telling him his four children were safe, but their rental home at 317 Valley View Road was engulfed in flames.
When he reached the scene 90 minutes later he hadn't prepared himself for what he saw. Small flames still lined what was left of the roof, the doors and windows were gone and what furniture he could see on the inside of the home was burned or dripping water. The garage, once filled with boxes in preparation for an upcoming move, now held a smoldering pool table and piles of soggy, blackened cardboard. His children, Dakota, 8; Alyssa, 10; Tyler 11 and Nicole, 15; still at home during the summer break, all escaped with only the clothes on their backs.
"Everything's gone. Years of memories, the kids' clothes," he said quietly. "God, I'm stunned."
But what worried the father most was medication for Dakota, who suffers from Septo-Optic Dysplasia, a neurological disorder that affects his pituitary gland and left the youngest L'Africain child blind. "That medicine keeps him alive."
According to Greg Liddicoat of the State Fire Marshal's Office, the fire appears to have started in a space between the L'Africain fence and the home. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Patsy Bell was at home at 319 Valley View with her brother Joe Mohr, his wife, Lauren, and the couple's three children, Brittany, 9; Jordan 7 and Alana 18 months, when Brittany spotted the flames outside the kitchen window. The family had moved into the rental that shares a fence with the L'Africain home a month prior.
They ran from the house with nothing more than the clothes they wore as well.
Representatives from the Red Cross arrived immediately. Red Cross Volunteer Julene Cagle immediately set out to secure replacement medication for Dakota. Her supervisor was on the phone with motels trying to find somewhere for the families to stay for the next three days.
Neighbor Susan Hult opened her home up to both families, ordered pizza and fielded phone calls and the media. Hult, a Department of Public Safety employee, hurried home when her daughter Katie called her at work to say the L'Africain children had rushed into the Hult house after escaping their own.
"They need everything," she said Friday afternoon of Michael and his children. Although the Mohr's were displaced by the fire, they will be able to salvage some property from their house, Kielty said.
"I've had people stop by already to drop off clothes. This is a great community," Hult said. "You know bad things happen, but good people can help them go away. It's nice to have support."
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