Home destroyed by fire

By Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat July 23, 2012 12:13 pm

Firefighters work to douse a structure fire that destroyed a home on Caylor Drive in Willow Springs on Sunday afternoon. Maggie Beck/Union Democrat, copyright 2012
 A Sunday afternoon fire destroyed the home of a Willow Springs woman and her teenage son.

About a dozen fire trucks lined the 20000 block of Caylor Drive while neighbors gathered in the street to watch helicopters dump hundreds of gallons of water on the burning structure and surrounding area.


The home reportedly was uninsured.

Next door neighbor Christie Courtroul said she first saw the fire about 2:30 p.m., which at that point was merely some small flames outside near the garage in the back of the house.

Courtroul said she immediately got on the phone with 911, but dispatchers told her emergency crews were already on their way.

By the time Courtroul got back outside, she said the whole house appeared to be engulfed, with windows shattering as flames jutted out from the inside.

Other neighbors grabbed hoses and began dousing the flames, while others prevented distraught homeowner Patty Pennisi, 56, from reentering the structure to gather belongings, Courtroul said.

Courtroul, whose home is roughly 20 yards from Pennisi’s, said she got all of her pets out of the house and was prepared to leave if the flames crossed over to her side of the fence.

“I was freaking out when it caught our fence on fire,” she said.

Fire crews extinguished most of the flames within about an hour and prevented the fire from spreading to the surrounding wildland. No other homes in the neighborhood had to be evacuated.

“Compliments to the fire department and sheriff’s office for getting here so quick,” said neighbor Rebecca Teshin. “I know that’s what they’re supposed to do, but it was very impressive.”

Meanwhile, Pennisi was being treated for minor smoke inhalation at the nearby home of neighbor Debbie McBride.

Pennisi declined to go to the hospital, said her mother Eloise Gilliam, of Twain Harte.

Gilliam said Pennisi’s 15-year-old son was in Monterey visiting his late father’s grandparents.

Pennisi moved from Monterey to her home in Soulsbyville eight years ago, after her husband, David Pennisi, was killed when his 72-foot commercial fishing boat was struck by a large cargo ship and sank in the ocean off Half Moon Bay, according to Gilliam.

She used money left by her deceased husband to purchase the home that burned down Sunday, Gilliam said.

Pennisi had surgery last year and the medical costs prevented her from being able to purchase homeowner’s insurance, Gilliam said.

Gilliam also noted that both Pennisi and her son lost all of their clothes and belongings in the fire, just weeks before Pennisi’s son was set to go back to school. Several of Pennisi’s cats were missing Sunday afternoon as well.

Red Cross had not been notified hours after the fire because Gilliam said her daughter and grandson could stay at her home.

“She’s got a couple of places to stay,” Gilliam said. “But she’s going to need assistance.”

McBride said she and Pennisi have been good friends for the past eight years. She said they watch over each other’s homes, so she ran to help her friend after smelling the smoke.

“It’s a tragic thing,” McBride said. “She owns the home but has no insurance.”

McBride said those wishing to help can call her at 532-4001, or Gilliam at 586-2969.