Fire destroys home near Nursery

A house burns on Kingwood Forest Drive
  • HOW TO HELPThe family did not ask for help from the Crossroads Chapter of the American Red Cross, but asked instead for people to give to the American Red Cross Disaster Fund at 2805 N. Navarro St. Suite 500, ...

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  • HOW TO HELPThe family did not ask for help from the Crossroads Chapter of the American Red Cross, but asked instead for people to give to the American Red Cross Disaster Fund at 2805 N. Navarro St. Suite 500, Victoria, TX 77901.

    A benefit account has been set up at First Victoria Bank for Mary Jo and Carroll Schuenemann.

Sean Steele watched flames fan through a home on Kingwood Forest Drive and prayed.

"It's heartbreaking, and it's a sick feeling to watch the flames grow and there's nothing you can do," he said.

Steele was the first person to witness the fire that destroyed 70 percent of the home near Nursery on Wednesday morning.

He was on his way to do Christmas shopping when he saw smoke, stopped driving and called 911.

"By the time we got off the phone with them, flames were coming out of the roof," he said.

No one was home when the fire was reported about 9:30 a.m., but when firefighters arrived, much of the damage was done.

"We were able to stop most of the fire, but, again, it's spread pretty heavily throughout the house," said Victoria Fire Chief Vance Riley.

No one was hurt, but owners Mary Jo and Carroll Scheunemann and their fourth-grade son lost clothing, food and presents.

"All of their Christmas is gone," said Missy Yearwood, a friend of the family.

Mary Jo Scheunemann, a radiologist at Citizens Medical Center, sat on the edge of a fire engine and sobbed with friends as firefighters trampled through her smoldering home.

Her husband, Carroll, circled the smoking home and watched the charred remains numbly.

"They are always the first ones to show up and give of themselves to those who are in need," Yearwood said. "It is just so very heartbreaking that this would happen to them."

Riley said the fire was difficult to fight because there was no fire hydrant nearby.

Nursery volunteer firefighters shuttled water from their department, and a small amount of water was pumped from a neighbor's pool, said Shannon Martin, battalion chief.

"They did an excellent job of shuttling water and helping us maintain an established water supply," he said.

Mission Valley volunteer firefighters were also dispatched, along with the Victoria County Sheriff's Office.

The firefighters battled until 11:18 a.m. to control the fire and finally cleared the scene at 3:51 p.m., nearly six hours later.

Investigators concluded the fire started because of a wire shorting out on the home's water pump, said Victoria County Fire Marshal Ron Pray.

"It's just kind of a normal thing that we start having an increase in fires - because of the (usual) weather patterns this time of year," Pray said.

The family was given a three-night stay at a local hotel, food and clothing, said Linda May, Red Cross emergency service director, but declined other assistance.

They instead asked for people to donate to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund and established a benefit account at First Victoria Bank.