A young Placerville couple are homeless after a flash fire burned their 40-foot trailer to the ground on June 19 around midnight.
Allene Carlson, 29, said she went to sleep with a candle burning near her bed. She awoke to find the trailer on fire and filled with smoke.
Her partner, Mike Kerr, 35, was outside at the time walking their dog. When he saw the smoke, he ran inside and tried putting out the fire with a blanket but it had already spread and was burning so hot they were forced outside. Luckily, neither was injured.
While they waited for the fire department to arrive, Mike tried using a hose on the fire but with little success. By the time three fire trucks, Sheriff’s deputies and an ambulance pulled up, their trailer was almost burnt to the ground and all the firemen could do was keep the fire from spreading.
Meanwhile small explosions were going off as the tires on the trailer exploded, as did a bottle of propane and a gas can that was 10 feet away from the trailer.
“I’ve lost everything,” said Carlson. “My grandmother passed away recently and everything she left me burned up along with my I.D., birth certificate and cash from my most recent paycheck. We literally got out with only the clothes on our backs.”
As upset as the couple is about losing everything they own except a car, they are equally upset about the way they were treated by a Sheriff’s deputy at the scene.
They said that one of the firemen asked them to move their car so they could move one of the fire trucks. But when Kerr went down to the car, one deputy asked him for his I.D. and questioned whether either of them was on probation or on parole.
“She’s hysterical over what’s happened and this deputy had this real cold attitude. And I asked him, why does this matter?” said Kerr.
According to Kerr, when he moved towards his car the deputy told him, “You stay right here until I’m through talking to you.”
Kerr then told the deputy he had been asked to move his car by the fireman. The deputy responded by telling Kerr to take his hands out of his pockets and to stay where he was while he ran their names. Meanwhile, the fireman again asked Kerr to move the car.
The deputy then asked if he could search their car. “Meanwhile my house is burning down,” said Kerr. ”He (the deputy) trashed the car. Everything in the glove compartment box was thrown on the floor. Everything in the side pockets of the car were turned upside down. It was totally unnecessary. We’re watching everything we own burn to the ground and we’re being treated like we did something wrong. At one point the deputy even threatened to arrest Allene and impound the car. How we were treated can happen to anybody.
Once the fire was put out, everyone left. “One of the firemen asked if we had anywhere we could go,” Kerr said. “We didn’t, so we got in the car and slept there.” The next morning they went to a friend’s house and starting making calls to service agencies.
The couple is grateful for the help they received. Green Valley Church gave them some clothes and a box of food. The Red Cross helped by putting them up in a motel for three days and giving them a credit card that was good for food and clothing.
“The volunteer from the Red Cross was very nice,” said Carlson. “That’s the only help we’ve received so far.”
Friday Kerr went to Health and Human Services and filled out the paperwork for food stamps but they haven’t heard back yet.
“We’ve called just about every help line there is in the area,” said Carlson.
“We have a dog. If we had a child, probably a lot more resources would be offered,” said Carlson. “I’m glad we don’t have a child to have to go through this.”
In a follow-up call to the Sheriff’s Department, Lt. Tim Becker, who is a spokesperson for the department, said that it was difficult to know if the deputy acted appropriately or not without knowing all the circumstances. He advised the couple to contact the department and make a formal complaint so the incident can be fully investigated.
The deputy in question was contacted but failed to return a phone call about the incident.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.