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.

Beyond that, it may well be up to the citizens of Menifee and local organizations to pitch in and help. Already, offers are pouring in.

David Bell, a captain with the Disaster Action Team of Red Cross, and four other Red Cross volunteers spent most of Saturday night on the site and helping to place the family temporarily. He said the best way to handle donations from the community is through a source outside the Red Cross, whose donations usually go into a general relief fund.

On Monday, Menifee 24/7 will publish information about how residents can send in cash donations for a special relief fund that will be set up for the family. We will also have details on where and when clothes, food, toys and other items can be dropped off. Menifee 24/7 is working with church groups and other community organizations to establish an appropriate form of relief for the family.

In addition to William and Cheryl Vrba and their two sons, other residents of the home included a daughters and her husband, a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren -- ages 7, 2 and 8 weeks.

"The 7-year-old is devastated," Cheryl said. "Everything she knows is gone. The 2-year-old was up until 4:30 this morning, saying, 'My house is broken and my milk is in there.' It's heartbreaking."

Cheryl said the family has insurance and she expects the house to be rebuilt over the next several months. The family is meeting with an insurance adjuster Monday to see what provisions they might have for temporary housing. Meanwhile, they are trying to put their lives back together and deal with the memories of what they had just a day ago.

"I love Menifee and I loved this house," said Cody Vrba, who lost his comnputer, textbooks and all other school supplies necessary for classes at Mt. San Jacinto College, where his brother also attends. "I loved the floor plan and how it was decorated. Yes, we had 10 people living here, but it was weirdly roomy."

Cheryl and her husband bought the home about two years ago and moved in by themselves, but soon took several family members in.

"In this economy, you have to combine resources and do things like that," she said."The kids can't afford to do it by themselves. We thank those who are helping us, but when you're talking about 10 people, that's a lot of help to ask for."

Those who would like to offer assistance or who have questions about this situation are invited to email and someone will respond as soon as possible. Details about methods of assistance will be published here on Monday.


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Post a Comment

  1. I had a devastating fire in Orange a single mom with 5 children. My insurance company left me hanging..and didnt pay for anything. If the victims have homeowners insurance..i can help them now that i know. there are so many "tricks" that the claims adjuster uses to lower the amount they pay the family. Please notice that the person you purchased your home insurance from is not the person "adjusting and paying" your claim. Keep all receipts as they require them..even for toothbrushes, bandaids, meals, etc. If the owners see this and want can call me at 951-570-1042. Praise God nobody was injured.

  2. God has something different for you. Be patient.
    ~Michael Ferreira

  3. The devistation of such a disaster is unimaginable until it happens to you. I've seen close to 100 such disasters and they don't get easier with time. The Red Cross helps local families with immediate needs - lodging, food and clothing. Long term options rest with the families although the Red Cross has case workers who help those in need find those resources. The Red Cross will always take cash donations but can't earmark them to specific families. If you want to donate, please visit The Red Cross does not accept funds from federal, state or local governments, the organization is 100% privately funded. Please help in any way you can. Thank you.

  4. Than you for all your help ^ David Bell ^ We really appreciate it. Here is the link to the donation page that is set up for the Vrba Family.
    ~ Bunnie

  5. our house flooded.... the insurance paid for candlewood suites for over 3 months. the adjuster will set a daily limit.. candlewood suites has inhouse laundry.. is pet friendly.. has big table for homework.. and full kitchen .. fully equipted .. everything needed
    I also was in this same place when the fires were evacuating.. you can get a very good online rate.. worth going there.. free movie rental for the kids.. it is not home.. but they are very nice...



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