Thursday Dec 08 2011
Fire alters the course of four Auburn lives
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Mike Fimea looks at the charred remains of the Auburn house he had been living uneventfully in four days earlier. And he expresses the shock, mixed with dread, but overlapped by thankfulness, that comes with being a survivor. Fimea recalls the sound of wood snapping as flames destroyed his deck. That woke him up. He still puzzles over why it did. He remembers rushing out of the burning El Oro Drive house he shared with his fiancée Teresa Boyd, and her sons, Devin Mosher, 17, and 21-year-old Corbin Major. “My only thought was that ‘we’ve gotta get out of here,’” Fimea said. “After the fire, you realize how close we came.” Devin, a senior at Placer High School, escaped with just his boxer shorts on and his cell phone and guitar, Fimea recalled. The others escaped with their lives. Fimea said he struggled to find his glasses, then hurried out. It was that fast. The four were soon together on the street of their normally quiet, upscale neighborhood as firefighters battled flames that would consume the house and successfully kept it from spreading to nearby residences. Boyd and one of the boys were barefooted as the fire engulfed the house and an east wind pushed the flames through their bedrooms, leaving nothing behind but ash and blackened wood. Thursday, Fimea and Boyd returned to the rented house but it was an emotional experience as they hugged each other for support. “It’s hard coming back here,” Fimea said. The Red Cross provided immediate help the morning of the fire, which was first reported at about 2:45 a.m. Monday. Since then, they have worked with their State Farm agent to begin the process of recovering what is now gone from their lives. “We’re all doing OK,” Boyd said. “You’re s cared but we got out alive.” Fimea said that he and the others are now moving toward a goal of reintroducing some normalcy in their lives as they live in a hotel paid for by their renter’s policy and look at a possible new home to move into nearby. “For me, it’s hard to see past tomorrow now,” Fimea said. “Eventually, it will all be put back together but it’s tough now. You’re stronger than you think and you can do a little at a time. But it’s hard not to emotionally collapse.” The American Red Cross’s Capital Region Chapter came to the aid of the four after being alerted to their plight by the Auburn Fire Department incident commander. Heath Wakelee, disaster action team captain, said the chapter’s team is trained to respond quickly – usually within 20 to 30 minutes of being called. After determining with fire officials the extent of damage to the home, Wakelee’s group approached the family to find out what their needs were. The Red Cross was able to provide emergency quarters – a pet-friendly hotel that allowed they to keep their pet schnauzer Henry and cat Venus with them – and money for food and clothing. Fimea said he was thankful for that aid as well as the $1,000 in cash that State Farm was able to provide the morning of the fire to help with emergency expenditures. As the impact of the fire settled in, friends offered more money and assistance. A neighbor volunteered to look after outdoor plants. The Red Cross money provided meals at MacDonald’s and a chance to buy shoes and other clothing. Parents of a friend handed them $400 in cash. “We lost everything but the Christmas presents, which were in the garage,” Fimea said. “The big-screen TV vaporized and the only trace left of the sofa are the springs.” Wakelee said the assistance the Red Cross has provided is an important part of what it does. The regional averages 421 disaster aid calls a year. “This is exactly where the donations go – to provide support in the local community,” he said.