Snow remover smothers Tahoe Donner home blaze |

Snow remover smothers Tahoe Donner home blaze

It was a little after 3 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 9 when the Tahoe Donner home ignited, fanned by the winds of a gusty winter storm.The family slept soundly as the flames, which started from unattended woodstove ashes, licked up the front siding and began charring the home’s upstairs deck. At the same time, Jacob McCauley, a Waltman Snow Removal employee, was making the early morning rounds in his snowblower. As he peered from the windows of his machine, McCauley noticed an orange glow coming from the nearby home’s entryway.”It looked like a small campfire on the guy’s porch,” McCauley said. The fire was feeding off a small woodpile near the front door, and continued to grow as McCauley pulled into the driveway.”He arrived on the scene right when the house ignited,” said Joanne Waltman, owner of Waltman Snow Removal. McCauley then used his machine as he probably had never used it before. He started flinging snow from the driveway onto the porch, deck and siding. The cascade of snow quickly smothered the blaze, and with the fire reduced to a smolder, McCauley moved to the door to awaken the sleeping family.”I banged on the doors and banged on the windows,” McCauley said.The family, who declined to comment for this article, woke up and used a garden hose to help finish off the fire. As smoke filled the house and four fire engines and a fire battalion arrived, the family evacuated.For the Truckee Fire Protection District, the story of the fire in Tahoe Donner is all too familiar. Improper ash disposal leads to significant number of house fires each year that could easily be avoided. To ensure that your home doesn’t catch fire from woodstove or barbecue ashes, put the ashes in a metal bucket with a tight-fitting lid for at least three days before disposal or douse the ashes with water until they’re cool to the touch, said Gene Welch, public information officer with the Truckee Fire Protection District. Do not spread ashes on the ground and don’t leave them on the tray below the grill of a barbecue; they might blow away.

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