What was supposed to be a joyous day celebrating their son's graduation from high school turned tragic Saturday for a Healdsburg couple whose house went up in flames, killing their three dogs.
Amy Covin and Gary O'Flanagan had just left their home on the 200 block of Pheasant Drive to attend a graduation party down the road for their son, Ben O'Flanagan, when the fire broke out around 3:15 p.m.
“I saw some smoke that didn't look right,” said neighbor Robin Robinson, who quickly called 911. “I was so scared. It happened so fast.”
The black smoke was coming from the rear deck where the family had a bar and often entertained, Robinson said.
Neighbor Dave Saccomano used a garden hose to try to douse the flames until a large explosion, possibly from a propane tank, pushed him back and greatly accelerated the fire, he said.
By the time firefighters arrived, the rear of the home was completely consumed in flames and the home was filled with thick smoke, Fire Chief Steve Adams said.
Firefighters, unsure whether anyone was in the home, went room to room dousing flames and looking for anyone trapped in the home. At one point, the kitchen ceiling collapsed, Adams said.
Ten engines from Healdsburg, Cloverdale, Santa Rosa, Windsor, CalFire and Geyserville helped fight the fire, Adams said.
A Windsor firefighter suffering from heat exhaustion was taken to the hospital, Adams said.
Covin, a CPA who worked out of the home, and Gary O'Flanagan, head brewer at Mendocino Brewing Co. in Ukiah, raced home from the party for their son Ben, to find their home engulfed.
Their first concern was for their three dogs, Trouble, a blue heeler, and Hercules and Atticus, both mastiffs, according to family friend Heidi Conrad.
“That's all they cared about,” Conrad said.
As acrid smoke blanketed the neighborhood, they waited anxiously with dozens of neighbors who had gathered across the street as firefighters brought the blaze under control. A section of fence that had been knocked down combined with reports of a dog being spotted a few streets away gave the couple hope that the dogs may have escaped.
But shortly after 5 p.m. the family received the news they dreaded. Firefighters had located the bodies of all three dogs in the home.
The family, who had been composed up to that point, embraced one another amid a tangle of fire hoses running down the street, and cried.
(You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or at email@example.com. On Twitter @citybeater.)