Home burns, pets saved

Union Democrat staff

Fire destroyed a home north of Sonora on Wednesday afternoon, but 11 Chihuahuas, a bigger dog and a cat survived the conflagration.

The fire on the 10200 block of Highway 49, just north of Springfield Road, was reported at 2:44 p.m., according to Cal Fire.

The house, owned by Luther Lee, was unoccupied at the time.Lee and his nephew, Jack Ainsworth, 22, were hanging out at the neighboring house on the property when the blaze started.

"We heard this 'POW,' " Lee said.

Ainsworth saw flames on the porch, where a propane tank was located, and opened doors to the house to free the animals. Lee dialed 911.

Peggy Ainsworth, Jack's mother, and her boyfriend, Ken Beach, hurried to the house when they heard about the fire.

Ainsworth was in the Big Hill area and Beach was at work in a Sonora wrecking yard.

Firefighters recovered the animals, handing them off one-by-one to the family and bystanders. Some were stowed in a car parked nearby.

One Chihuahua, Taz, was still missing at the time of the fire.

Jack Ainsworth embraced his frazzled orange tabby cat, Garfield, as he talked about the fire.

Tears welled in Peggy Ainsworth's eyes when a firefighter delivered a trembling Chihuahua named Peewee to her.

Fire officials on scene said the structure and its contents were a loss.

Ainsworth said the fire destroyed a BMX bicycle that he had poured many hours and dollars into building.

"You can't take the stuff with you when you go anyway," Lee said.

He was more distraught about losing the home itself.

The property has been in the family since the 1970s, and Lee obtained the home from his parents in 2006.

Lee said he would either stay in his trailer or crash on the couch at his family's house next door.

Cal Fire, Tuolumne County Fire Department, Sonora Fire Department and Columbia Fire Protection District responded.

The fire's cause is under investigation.

No injuries were reported.

11890092
The Union Democrat
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