“Life in truths.”
David McClanahan, 65, looked out on the remains of he and his wife Cindy’s house in Coarsegold Saturday, greeted only by bitter ashes.
On Nov. 17, their home on Ellen Mine Road off Road 415 was quickly engulfed in flames. Having recently sold the home, David said he and Cindy were house hunting in Oregon when they got the dreaded call.
“Everything is gone, basically,” David said as he stood in a pile of soot surrounded by burned walls - a shell of the home he and and Cindy shared for 16 years. “There’s two rooms with walls left, there’s no roof at all ... the house is a total loss.”
Because the property recently closed escrow, David said he canceled his insurance to prepare for the new owners. That means, he said, all of he and Cindy’s possessions, as well as their memories, were lost forever.
“This was the refrigerator,” David said. “I always kind of hated it ... but we’ve had five generations. Five generations of our family have been in this house. And now it’s gone.”
What hurt the most, though, was the fate of he and Cindy’s cats Shadow and Joy, David said.
“As soon as we got the call we knew we had to get home and take care of our cats,” David said as tears welled in his eyes. “And we had to put one in the ground. That’s one of the things that hurts the most. Everything else was just stuff. They were our children.”
Shadow, the McClanahans’ 5-year-old cat, died during the fire. Joy was gone, and hasn’t returned.
Despite all those losses, David kept a smile as he sorted through his home’s remains.
Picking up a few charred pages of his 1968-69 yearbook from Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra, David said he wanted his scorched home to serve as an important reminder to the community.
After talking with the fire marshal, David said he learned 16 years of creosote - a common byproduct from use of a fireplace or wood stove - had built up in the chimney.
Because there was never an issue before, David said he and Cindy lit a fire the night before their Oregon trip. And though they extinguished the flames, the creosote sat, slowly built heat to the right temperature, and caught fire in the existing oxygen.
As such, the McClanahans had a fire Wednesday, went house hunting in Oregon Thursday, and came home to lost memories Saturday.
“This should be a big fat warning for everyone,” David said. “Get your inserts or your fireplace inspected or cleaned. I would have never thought about it. We used it for 16 years with no issues that we knew of until boom, the inferno.”
Donations to help the McClanahan family can be made at gofundme.com/help-mcclanahans-after-house-fire.