Neighbors made house fire more bearable

DAYTON -- A fast-moving fire that destroyed 50 percent of a Dayton family home Tuesday evening could have been worse if not for the swift action of neighbors who pulled items from the fire.

On Thursday, homeowners Mike and Diane Kneeland surveyed the damage and counted their blessings.

Everyone, including 14-year-old Kyle, escaped with no more than frayed nerves and a few singed hairs that Mike acquired while fighting the fire with the garden hose. The family cat also escaped unhurt but a day later was too spooked to be caught.

It could take several weeks for the insurance company to make their assessment, but with more than half of the 2,200-square-foot home at 130 Pebble Drive a blackened skeleton, it may have to be leveled.

The fire also caused some heat damage to a house and car next door.

It all began with a family barbecue on the back deck.

Kyle was out and about with friends.

Mike had put a pork roast on the barbecue that stood on the back deck, banked the fire, closed the lid, set the timer and retreated to work on the computer.

"I've barbecued bazillions of times," he said of his confidence in leaving the barbecue unattended.

From inside the family room, Diane watched ribbons of smoke drift by the window but could not see the barbecue itself. When the ribbons became dark billows she ran outside and discovered a ring of fire around the barbecue.

Don grabbed a hose while Diane searched for a fire extinguisher from neighbors and at 5:30 p.m. called the Central Lyon County Fire District.

"It just took off," Diane said. "In 10 minutes, it was right there on the roof."

By the time the fire trucks arrived, "the shingles were flying and flames were coming through the roof," she added.

While the fire rushed up the walls and the fence, neighbors rushed to help.

"Our neighbors here in Dayton are just outstanding," Mike said. "They were all over. While I was hosing down the back, they pushed out the boat (that was beside the house). They turned off the gas.

"Everything was done for me by my neighbors."

In addition, firefighters rescued clothes from the house and Diane was able to grab photographs before fire claimed everything else.

Because the fire did not respond to the hosed water, Mike believes the linseed-oil mixture he had recently used to coat the deck contributed to the fast-moving fire.

Fire officials also think the oil fueled the fire as well as the winds.

For now the family is living at Diane's mother's home, but neighbors continue to extend help with offers of places to stay and space for storage.


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