No evidence of arson in fatal Potter Valley fire
Published: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 6:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 6:14 p.m.
Almost three months after a house fire took the lives of two Potter Valley residents, much of the charred remains still sit on the Main Street property.
Mendocino County sheriff’s officials initially called the Sept. 29 fire “suspicious,” based on allegations by residents of the home the blaze could have been intentionally set.
A lengthy investigation, however, found no evidence supporting arson, said sheriff’s Lt. Greg Van Patten.
The Sept. 29 Potter Valley fire killed Earle McDaniels, 87, and his son, Wesley McDaniels, 55.
Detectives compiled a 200-page report on the case, investigating both the fire and a fight that occurred as the house burned between residents of the burning home and another Potter Valley woman, Van Patten said.
The report recommends prosecutors file battery charges against the residents, according to the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office.
The fire broke out early that Saturday morning at the McDaniels’ longtime residence, located across the street from the volunteer fire department in rural Potter Valley.
Dawn McDaniels, 39, the daughter and sister of the victims, and Kenneth Tracy, 51, and their three young children got out of the burning double-wide mobile home.
The couple’s efforts to get the elderly man and his son out were unsuccessful.
The mobile home and attached garage and building went up quickly. At least one propane tank exploded during the firefighting effort.
The devastation left little evidence for investigators to determine how the fire started, officials said.
“We’re forwarding that (the assault case) for consideration for charges and to have the District Attorney look at everything else regarding the allegations this was potentially an intentionally set fire,” said Van Patten.
“Two people lost their lives. That takes the investigation to a higher level,” he said.
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