Family of 10 Displaced, Loses Everything in Menifee House Fire

Red Cross volunteer David Bell talks to David Vrba inside the remains of the family home on Sunday. ...

Red Cross volunteer David Bell talks to David Vrba inside the remains of the family home on Sunday.
Cheryl Vrba was talking to a reporter inside the charred remains of her Menifee home Sunday afternoon when her son David emerged from what was once a back room of their family's five-bedroom house in the 30600 block of Pier Pointe Circle.

"I found a photo of grandpa," he said. "Do you want it?"

"Of course," Cheryl Vrba replied.

Unfortunately, she has very little else left from what just yesterday was the comfortable, spacious home to a family of 10.

While no one was home Saturday night, a fire raged through the ground floor of the structure before neighbors noticed the smoke and called 911. Fanned by a wall unit air conditioner left on to keep the house cool, the flames raced up the stairs, taking virtually everything in their way.

Riverside County Fire crews had the blaze contained within a half hour, but by then, the house was gutted. Cheryl, her husband William and eight other family members had lost virtually everything and are now homeless.

"It's totally gone," Cheryl said, standing inside the shell of her burned-out house as family members sorted through the rubble. "You think about all the things that can't be replaced. I had a quilt that my girlfriend who passed away made for me as the last thing she made. Our clothes, the kids' toys ... everything is gone."

Vrba family members realize they are fortunate no one was injured. Cheryl and William's two sons, David and Cody (pictured below right), were at the movies with a friend. Most of the rest of the family was eating dinner at Carnitas Express on Newport Road when Cheryl got the call from a neighbor.

"I ran out and left the family sitting there," Cheryl said. "I was so confused, I just ran out. I'd like to thank the anonymous person who paid for my family's meal, plus Upper Crust Pizza for sending over three pizzas for us after the firemen told them what happened."

According to Cheryl, officials believe the fire started with an electrical short in the living room near the TV and enterainment center hookups. According to David, the home was equipped with smoke alarms that apparently functioned properly, but were not heard because no one was home.

The Vrba family will need a lot of help over the next few months. The local chapter of the American Red Cross has placed them in a hotel, but the stay is limited to three days. The family has also been given a small amount of cash by the Red Cross to buy food and some clothes, perhaps enough to last a week.