Montague couple lost everything in Friday night fire
A Montague couple lost everything but the clothes on their backs Friday evening when their house on High Street, off of Scala Lane, burned to the ground.
Mary and Rafe Gomez had lived in their house “up on the hill” for more than 20 years. Mary said she and her husband were home Friday evening around 5:30 p.m. when the power briefly turned off, then came back on accompanied by a popping noise.
They investigated, but saw nothing at first, said Mary. However, a few minutes later they saw strange shadows coming from the windows and Mary noticed smoke coming from the direction of their shed.
Rafe ran outside and began throwing water at the base of the flames with five gallon buckets to slow the fire’s spread toward the house. Unfortunately he’d left his hose elsewhere that day and didn’t have it when he needed it most.
Rafe said he has some knowledge of fire because he did some firefighting at Yellowstone when he served in the Marine Corps. He may have looked frantic, but he said he knew what to do and believes that if he had a hose, things may have turned out differently.
As Rafe worked desperately, Mary assisted by filling buckets, called 911 and was able to get their five pugs in the car and down the driveway, away from the fire and to safety.
Their son, 29 year-old Christopher Casey, who also lives with them, was at work at Walmart at the time of the fire, said Mary.
The only loss of life was the family’s 8 year old, four-foot long tegu lizard named Toothless.
Although he feels terrible about Toothless, “I got my wife, myself, my children and my dogs,” said Rafe, reflecting on the difficulty of moving forward after the shock of losing the accoutrements of life.
“You’re not sure what to do,” he said. “It’s hard to think about what you’re supposed to do next. People say to take it one day at a time. But I think it’s more like a moment at a time.”
Although the Gomes are certain the fire was started by an electrical malfunction of some kind, most likely with the transformer, CAL FIRE public information officer Suzi Brady said the official cause of the fire is still under investigation.
The fire not only burned the Gomes’ house, but also four storage trailers, two sheds, a pump house and several cars they had parked on their property, which belongs to Rafe’s mother. The couple rented their home from her.
“It burned everything,” said Mary, including their belongings, identification, medications and the medication for their pets.
In addition, the fire spread to include nine acres of brush and grass. Dubbed the “High Incident,” the fire was 100 percent contained just after 10 p.m. that windy evening, said Brady.
Mary and Rafe said for now, they’ll be living on their son’s property in Hawkinsville until they decide on their next move.
Rafe said he is emotional because over the past 20 years, he has helped many people get through tough periods in their lives, opening his door and arms to those in need. People always knew to find him at his house “on the hill,” a place he expected never to leave.
A Go Fund Me campaign has been set up to help get the Gomes family get on their feet: https://bit.ly/2YOIgKL