CATCHING SOME ZZZZs -- Tanner Dickson (L) dozes against the bumper of the fire department’s pumper truck while Shay Parker (R) stretched out in the street. The pair were among the fire crews who responded to the McSherry house fire on Dixie Drive early Sunday morning and stood watch over the smoldering ruins until well after sun rise. -- COURTESY PHOTO | DENESE CAPPS
CATCHING SOME ZZZZs -- Tanner Dickson (L) dozes against the bumper of the fire department’s pumper truck while Shay Parker (R) stretched out in the street. The pair were among the fire crews who responded to the McSherry house fire on Dixie Drive early Sunday morning and stood watch over the smoldering ruins until well after sun rise. -- COURTESY PHOTO | DENESE CAPPS

Mario Arispe was among the Eldorado Eagles who endured the 100+ degree temperatures during the team’s season opener in San Saba last Friday night. He found the action even hotter a few hours later after a fire broke out in his family’s home at 205 Dixie Drive in Eldorado.

Mario made the 125-mile trip home with the team. His family had already gone to bed and he was preparing to take a shower before calling it a night. That’s when Mario heard noises that he thought might be someone walking through the house, or the family dog on the back porch.

“Then I heard the glass shatter in my sisters’ bedroom,” Mario said. “So I ran in there and saw the flames and I yelled at them to get out.”

Mario then hurried to make sure the rest of the family was awake. Moments later, the home was engulfed in flames.

It was six weeks to the day, in fact almost to the minute, that a similar fire broke out in the home of Eric and Jessica Penkszyk, just 150 feet away on Bluebonnet Drive.

And, like the Penkszyk fire, this one was moving fast.

Mario shared the home with his parents, Josh and Marianna McSherry as well as his siblings Malik, Maddi and Mckinley.

“It’s a good thing that boy was still up when it all started,” Fire Chief Joey Jones said later. “He probably saved some lives.”

Chief Jones says the fire at the McSherry home is eerily similar to the Penkszyk fire, but he resists calling it anything other than a bizarre coincidence.

Both fires started in the back yard, both were in the wee hours of the morning, and in both cases, someone had been cooking on a backyard grill a few hours earlier. Added on top of that is the consideration of how hot and dry it has been lately, Jones added.

The McSherry fire quickly spread from the backyard to the home’s back porch, then a propane cannister exploded and the blaze was off and running.

A 9-1-1 call came in reporting the fire at 2:07 a.m. on Saturday, August 29th. The first units of the Eldorado Volunteer Fire Department arrived at the fire minutes later to find Josh McSherry and neighbor Richard Mendez, armed with garden hoses, trying to contain the inferno.

Assistant Fire Chief T.J. Rodriguez explains that the home’s construction made the fire difficult to battle. The house had been clad in siding, which remained in place when a porch was added and everything was bricked over.

“The brick and the siding made it hard to get inside the walls,” Rodriguez said. “And, when the fire spread to the attic, it was all over.”

Fortunately, everyone escaped the home and no one suffered serious injury. A few firefighters were exhausted, however, and a couple of them, Shay Parker and Tanner Dickson, fell asleep in the street as they stood watch over the smoldering embers until the next day.

Chief Jones explained Monday that he is aware of speculation on social media that the Penkszyk and McSherry fires are too similar in nature and too close in proximity to be written off as mere coincidence.

“That’s not necessarily what I think,” Jones said. “But, we asked the State Fire Marshal to take a look, just to be sure.”

Sheriff Jason Chatham said that a fire investigator was in town on Tuesday, but added that he had not heard if a report has been received.

In the meantime, Chief Jones urges caution when cooking outside the home, especially in hot and dry conditions.

“An ember can glow for a long time,” he said. “All it takes is a bit of fuel and/or a little bit of a breeze and things can get out of control very quickly.”

A GoFundMe account has been established to benefit the McSherry family at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/ntjvc-mcsherry

Also, individuals wanting to donate locally may make a deposit to the McSherry account at 1st Community Federal Credit Union in Eldorado.