Community comes together to help Potter Valley fire victims
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012 at 2:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 1, 2012 at 2:36 p.m.
A Potter Valley family devastated by the loss of two family members and all of their belongings in a weekend house fire are settling into another family home in the valley.
Donations are being collected at the Potter Valley Youth and Community Center as leaders in the rural Mendocino County valley are coordinating aid efforts.
"We've been in touch with the family, trying to meet their needs," said Nicole Glentzer, superintendent of the Potter Valley Community Unified School District.
The surviving family members included Dawn Tracy, her husband, Ken, and their three children, two girls, 18 months and 5 years, and an 11-year-old boy.
The girl is in kindergarten and the boy is a sixth grader. Both attend Potter Valley Elementary School.
The fire broke out at about 7:30 a.m. Saturday at the family's Main Street double-wide mobile home where they lived with grandfather Earl McDaniels, 87, and his son, Wes McDaniels, a 55-year-old developmentally disabled man.
All apparently were home at the time.
By several accounts the fire, which started inside, quickly consumed the home.
Efforts were made by family members to get to the victims. Some neighbors reported Saturday that Wes McDaniels was trying to get his father out when he also succumbed to the fire.
In the charred remains, firefighters found one of the victims in what had been a bedroom and one in another part of the home.
The children made it out safely. On Monday, a Mendocino County sheriff's captain said the 11-year-old boy apparently played a key role in helping his sisters.
"It sounds like one of the children was taking charge of getting everybody out of the house," said Capt. Kurt Smallcomb. "It sounds like he might have been a hero in this."
The boy, whose name wasn't released, is a member of a local Boy Scout troop. Glentzer said she had heard the boy had helped his sisters out of the burning home.
While sheriff's officials won't release the names of the victims pending positive identification following autopsy testing, the family identified the two victims as Earl and Wes McDaniels.
The cause of the Saturday morning fire remains under investigation. Smallcomb said the fire is considered suspicious, a standard designation in fatal fires until investigators can determine whether the fire was accidental.
While the family has a home to go to, Glentzer said that they were missing appliances and many basic daily needs, such as kitchen supplies. The family lost all of their clothing and personal belongings.
"Some furniture has been donated, but they're going to need some appliances," she said.
She said anyone wanting to donate money or items should contact the community center.
The family tragedy struck the small community hard and is the worst thing to occur in valley of about 3,000 residents in many years, said Glentzer.
"We're so small, when you talk about the Boy Scouts, you're talking about people who work for the school and the community center. There is lots of overlapping," she said.
You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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