Fire That Killed Calif. Family Blamed on Power Strip

May 9, 2013
An overloaded power strip and extension cord is the suspected cause of a fire in a Cloverdale double-wide mobile home that killed a couple and their young son.

May 09--The fire that took the lives of a Cloverdale couple and their young son started in an overloaded power strip that fed several extension cords and household electronics, Cloverdale fire officials said Wednesday.

The pre-dawn fire on Monday originated in the living room-kitchen area of the double-wide mobile home at Briarwood Mobile Home Park and quickly filled the residence with thick, black smoke, Cloverdale Fire Chief Jason Jenkins said.

The fire spread down the hallway and into the bedroom where firefighters later found Charles "Chuck" Baynes, 33, on a bed, Jenkins said. Paula Baynes, 33, and the couple's 4-year-old son, Philip, "appeared to have been making attempts to get out," Jenkins said.

Investigators combed through the home and discovered a system of extension cords and power strips had been used to power part of the home, rather than the unit's built-in wiring, Jenkins said.

"Extension cords and power strips are designed to be used as temporary solutions; overloading a power strip can be very dangerous," Jenkins said.

A fundraiser to help with the cost of burying the family will be held Saturday at the Healdsburg and Cloverdale Goodwill stores, said Mark Ihde, the CEO of Redwood Empire Goodwill.

Paula Baynes worked as a cashier in the Healdsburg Goodwill store.

"She came to work for us last November," Ihde said. "She was very highly regarded by her co-workers."

All donations made Saturday to the two north county stores will be converted to a cash amount, which will be given to a burial fund, he said.

There also is a fund set up at Exchange Bank in the name of Constance Welch, Chuck Baynes' mother, to help with costs, he said.

Ihde said he met the couple in January at the nonprofit agency's annual awards banquet for employees.

At the end of the evening he encountered the Baynes outside, waiting for a ride to Cloverdale.

"They were a very sweet couple," said Ihde, who attempted to help them with a ride home.

"Neither one of them drove. I was concerned. It was 10 o'clock at night and they were waiting for a ride, coming from Lake County, and they were going to Cloverdale," he said. As I recall they borrowed a cell phone to make a call."

They assured him they were fine and their ride was on the way.

"I was quite impressed with what they went through, all that effort to be at our banquet," said the former Sonoma County sheriff.

(You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or [email protected]. You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or [email protected]. On Twitter @jjpressdem.)

Copyright 2013 - The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.

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