Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Fire destroys Lucerne home late Friday






LUCERNE – Northshore Fire officials are still trying to determine what caused a fire that destroyed a Lucerne man's home on Friday evening.

The fire was dispatched at approximately 8:18 p.m. Friday to 6856 Lakeshore Boulevard, the home of George Riehl.

Neighbors initially had been concerned that Riehl, injured in a motorcycle crash a few years ago, was still inside. However, he was safely evacuated.

Sitting on the ground about a block down the street from his burning home, Riehl was crying out, “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!”

Some neighbors took the chance to get away from the scene, where propane tanks were said to be located.

One woman took her two small children and walked down the street and away from the street crowded with emergency responders, saying that if anything else exploded she wanted her children to be safe.

Fire hoses were stretched out for blocks and water was running down the streets from the house, tucked in at the end of Lakeshore Boulevard in the Lucerne Riviera.

A total of 10 Four Northshore Fire vehicles – including four trucks, two battalion chiefs, Chief Jim Robbins, two ambulances and another large pickup – plus two Lake County Sheriff's patrol vehicles responded to the scene.

“We're not sure what the cause was,” said Robbins, explaining that Riehl had driven up to the house and parked on power lines that the fire had knocked down.

The downed lines were sparking and hampering firefighters from getting into Riehl's home, said Robbins. Pacific Gas and Electric was called to the scene to deal with the power line issues so firefighters could work on the fire.

Barry Mac Leod, who lives next door in another home owned by Riehl, was standing in bare feet outside of his home, trying to find his dog and two cats. His wife took a cat out of the garage, tucking it into her coat.

He said he was in his kitchen when he heard barking dogs, then his daughter said that Riehl's house was on fire. About that time he said he heard an explosion, which he guessed came from a small propane tank on the side of Riehl's house.

Mac Leod said he got his grandson and family out of the house, then rescued his motorcycle from the garage, but hadn't been able to find his dog or second cat.

He said he used a garden hose to put out one of the burning power lines as the fire reached a point over his house. Mac Leod also wetted down the back of his own home and tried to put out the fire burning Riehl's home.

“His home is completely gone,” said Mac Leod.

As he was speaking another loud explosion from the direction of Riehl's home was heard. Acrid-smelling smoke came from the house and floated down the street.

The fire damaged the back of Mac Leod's home and its eaves, Robbins said.

Mac Leod pointed out that it was Friday the 13th. “I just mowed the lawn today, too.”

He said he was grateful he was there and able to take action.

“If we hadn't gotten home it might have taken everything,” he said, adding that he feared the fire could have reached two or three other homes, all of which are built in close proximity to one another along the street.

An arson investigator was called to the scene to help in determining the fire's cause.

Northshore Fire engines were still returning to quarters at nearly 1 a.m. Saturday after working on the scene all evening. One engine was reported to be staying on scene all night.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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