Browns Valley family coming to grips with mother's death in fire
Visit www.facebook.com/SmilesForCienna or send donations directly to the McClanahan family, c/o of Christin Saldana, P.O. Box 8214, Marysville, CA, 95901. These are the only places collecting donations for the family.
The fire alarm sounded early Tuesday at Joann McClanahan's Browns Valley home.
But, that was nothing new, according to family members.
"It happens all the time when you cook," said Jonas McClanahan, one of Joann's five adult children.
After a few minutes, though, McClanahan went to investigate.
"I opened the living room door, and the whole room was filled with smoke," he said.
Jonas McClanahan, 29, was staying with his mother at the time, along with his wife, Christin, and their 4-year-old daughter, Cienna. McClanahan's younger brother, Zach, who has Down syndrome, was also staying at the home.
His first thought was to get Zach out of the house.
"He was very agitated and scared. He didn't want to go outside, so I had to push him outside, and he kept trying to come back in, so I had to shut the door," McClanahan said.
Locked inside a small house with smoke mounting by the second, Jonas McClanahan scrambled to find his mother, who was in her bedroom at the back of the house — the same room where the blaze was first sparked. "I opened her door, and the room looked like the night — it was all black," he said. "There was fire on the floor, and I could see her on the ground on her stomach."
Jonas McClanahan grabbed his mother's limp arm.
"And I knew she was not going to move," he said.
With his socks melting to the rug and his hair starting to catch fire, Jonas McClanahan made a split-second decision to make a dash for the garden hose outside. It would turn out to be a decision that may have saved his own life, but that wouldn't become clear until much later.
"I grabbed the hose outside as my wife called 911, but when I tried to get back inside, I couldn't get past the front door," he said.
Running around to his mother's bedroom window, Jonas McClanahan smashed the window and tried to spray the fire.
"There was just so much flames," he said.
Jonas McClanahan and his family are still trying to come to grips with their losing Joann, who had five children, five grandchildren and their home.
"It's everything; we lost everything but the clothes we were wearing and the car," McClanahan said.
The fire gutted the family's double-wide trailer home in the 5000 block of Shadowbrook Trail and destroyed dozens of irreplaceable photographs and family keepsakes.
CalFire officials have said the fire was accidental and could possibly have started when a kerosene lamp fell over, but no definitive cause has been established.
No memorial plans have been set. The family intends to cremate their beloved matriarch.
Family members are still searching for answers and maybe some help from their friends and extended family.
"It's hard to ask for help," Jonas McClanahan said. He's been out of work for several months.
A PayPal account and a Facebook page — Smiles for Cienna — have been established, and the family is accepting donations through the mail. Cienna is McClanahan's 4-year-old daughter.
Jonas McClanahan said his mother "was such a wonderful person. It's just really tough right now."