Homes left but fire damage remains

Auburn couple said challenges still ahead in clean-up process
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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Living in one of the houses left in a neighborhood destroyed by fire can be a mixed blessing for homeowners. When flames from the 49 Fire stopped short of taking Joseph and Mary Moscariello’s home, the Auburn couple felt thankful that they’re house was left standing. It’s been a month since the 49 Fire burned 343 acres of North Auburn land and took 63 homes and businesses with it. Those homes include several that were caught in the blaze’s unforgiving path that traveled up the Moscariello’s street, Oak Mist Lane. The fire took the home next door to the Moscariello’s but stopped short of incinerating the couple’s house. However, their home suffered severe smoke damage inside and out and the couple lost one side of fencing. Now, the Moscariellos faces a long road ahead to getting their piece of Auburn back to its original condition. “It’s an ongoing process trying to get things accomplished,” Mary Moscariello said. “Structurally the house is not the way it was.” A few days after the f ire, Joseph Moscariello was outside in his yard watering its charred side. The once fenced-in yard was now open and burned bushes reminded him of the fire. “I can’t go to sleep at night because I’m thinking this stuff might ignite again and burn what’s left of the house,” Joseph Moscariello said shortly after the fire. “It’s good to see some of the stuff cleared out.” A month later Mary Moscariello pointed to the brand-new landscaping in the front yard and the newly laid concrete in the driveway as she stood on her front deck that had to be rebuilt. The home needed a new roof and the outside will have to be repainted again. The interior of the home suffered intense smoke damage. New insulation was needed as was major work to ceilings and walls. Also, all of the Moscariello’s furniture and clothes were removed and cleaned. Mary Moscariello said they’re thankful their contractor, Cory Earles, is well versed in building code and has been a trustworthy worker among the many mailers and calls they get from out-of-area repair businesses. Unwanted mail isn’t the only thing the Moscariello’s have had coming near their home. They’ve witnessed strangers walking through their neighbors’ ashen plots. “They have no business being there,” Mary Moscariello said. “They’re going through someone’s lives.” She said she’s happy to see multiple sheriff’s patrol cars making rounds through the neighborhood, but that doesn’t keep out the coyotes and other wildlife that now have open access to a once fenced off neighborhood. Signs are posted warning trespassers that the burned neighborhoods are accessible to residents only. “You have to protect yourself and your home,” Mary Moscariello said. “You don’t know what’s out there at night.” And there are still the smells of the fire. Whenever the wind kicks up, Mary Moscariello said she still smells smoke and sees ash. She said it’s also sad to watch neighbors still searching for lost pets. “When you walk you can still smell death,” Mary Moscariello said Tuesday. Mary Moscariello said while she’s thankful that she didn’t lose as much as many of her neighbors, “you can’t say you’re really happy.” She is happy to hear that some neighbors plan to rebuild and offers her condolences to all who lost everything. “We’re very grateful for everything that we have,” Mary Moscariello said. “And we’re very sad for everybody who lost so much.” Moscariello said one thing she and her neighbors are taking comfort in is the cold, wet weather that comes with the approaching winter months. “A lot of people are suffering and this brings back memories,” Mary Moscariello said pointing to the burned neighborhood around her. “We’re waiting for Mother Nature to take over and clean everything and make a fresh start.” Jenifer Gee can be reached at