Cause of deadly Edgewood fire still under investigation

Skye Kinkade
A home on Edgewood’s 1st Street, located behind Butteville Elementary School, sustained “serious damage” April 14. Resident Ralph Menges, age 69, died in the blaze.  Photo by Skye Kinkade

The cause of an April 14 residential fire in Edgewood that claimed the life of 69 year old Ralph Menges is still unknown.

Investigators on the Siskiyou County Arson Team, better known as SCAT, are still in the process of investigating the blaze, which caused “extensive damage” to the 1st Street home, said CAL FIRE spokesperson Suzi Brady.

SCAT is composed of several trained investigators from throughout Siskiyou County fire departments. They are in charge of the investigation and work alongside the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department and the insurance company, Brady explained.

The fire, which broke out around 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning, was particularly stressful for neighbors Brendan and Kaleb Claunch, ages 14 and 16, who were having breakfast with their parents, April Braudaway and Marcus Claunch, when they saw smoke.

They ran outside and saw their neighbor’s house on fire.

Marcus said he grabbed a water hose and began spraying the flames, but they were “out of control.” He also squirted the side of his own house, which was getting very hot and beginning to scorch.

Brendan tried to go next door to help Menges, but he was shocked by the metal fence, which had been electrified when a power line fell on it.

Menges, who was “severely disabled” made it as far as the front porch. Though Brendan attempted to get him, a piece of burning wood fell on him and he couldn’t get him out, he said.

Both Brendan and Kaleb tried to go in the back door of the residence to save Menges but it was too hot, they said.

April Braudaway was sickened from inhaling the smoke and was treated for chemical bronchitis at Mercy Medical Center, Mt. Shasta.

Also transported to the hospital was another man who lived at the house with Menges, though his name is not being released, said Brady.

Menges, a former employee of Union Pacific, was found deceased on the front porch of the residence. The cause of his death will be determined by an autopsy, which generally takes between six and eight weeks to complete, said Jayme Lynch, spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Department.

The Claunches said they are saddened by Menges’ death. The boys would check on him periodically, and Brendan had just been at his house that morning to borrow a stamp, he said.

Some of Menges’ personal possessions, including photographs, were safe from the fire and remain in an outdoor shed. His dog, Ruby, has since been adopted.