As Potter Valley residents rallied Sunday for a family who lost two relatives in a Saturday morning house fire, Mendocino County sheriff's detectives and fire investigators continued looking into what sheriff's officials called a suspicious fire.
"We've been on the scene. . . . The investigation is ongoing," said Potter Valley Fire Chief Bill Pauli on Sunday.
Sheriff's officials haven't released the names of the two victims, but family members Saturday said they were Earl McDaniels, a grandfather in his 80s, and his son Wes McDaniels, a developmentally disabled man in his 50s.
There were at least seven family members living in the double-wide mobile home with an attached large room. Two other people may have been staying at the home as well, visiting, Pauli said.
The residence was on the rural community's main street and people working nearby and volunteer firefighters saw the smoke and ran to the house.
The bystanders and firefighters helped get three children out of the gated and locked yard. Bolt cutters were used to open the gate, Pauli said.
Initial reports indicated the children's parents had tried to get the victims out but the home was quickly engulfed in flames, followed by propane tank explosions.
Two bodies were located during the fire fight. The 7:30 a.m. blaze destroyed the home.
"There was nothing saved. Nothing," Pauli said.
Sheriff's detectives are leading the investigation. A press release issued Saturday by the Sheriff's Office labelled the fire suspicious, but no details were given.
Sheriff's Capt. Kurt Smallcomb said in the release the identities and further information would be released this week.
Fatalities in fires always trigger death investigations as law enforcement agencies attempt to rule out any possible foul play.
Investigators and detectives Saturday finished combing through the rubble, but the scene Sunday remained secured with yellow police tape as investigators may need to return, Pauli said.
The community's attention Sunday was on the surviving family members.
"The family is devastated by the loss of the two lives, the complete loss of all of their home and all of their belongings," Pauli said. "The concern in the community is for the family."
The local Red Cross chapter offered temporary aid to the family.
The chief said the valley's two churches and school were organizing help. A boy from the family is a member of a local Cub Scout troop and the troop also was involved in the community efforts, he said.
The fire station, used by the all-volunteer department, is across the street from the home.
Chief Pauli said four firefighters were at the house almost instantly and a Cal Fire official passing through the area was there quickly as well.
"Response was not an issue," he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or firstname.lastname@example.org.