Man returns home to find ashes

Kicked while down: Loses mom, home within weeks

POSTED: 02:25 PM PDT May 02, 2013    UPDATED: 07:15 AM PDT May 03, 2013 
Man returns home to find ashes
BANNING, Calif. -

"It's a Triumph my brother had restored for my mother," Joe Kiener says, pointing to a charred car in what used to be his garage.

His home, formerly his mothers, is the only one to burn in the Summit Fire on Wednesday.

"Over here we had table saw, brand new table saw right there. Next to it is the lawn mower that I just used to cut back the field.  I mowed it all down," Kiener says as he sifts through the soot, "Now all you see is the charred remnants that's left."

Keiner took precautions, knowing his neighborhood is prone to fires.

"Joe did everything right," says Julie Hutchinson, CAL Fire Battalion Chief. "He'd done all his weed abatement, he'd done all his defensible space."

"He was home for lunch," Hutchinson says, "the dog acted up, you look out and there's a big field adjacent to your property, and the fire is coming at you with a huge fire front with a 30 mile per hour wind."

Keiner says he's lucky. He says he never comes home for lunch, but had some laundry and vacuuming to do. Had he stayed at work, as is his routine, his black retriever "Duke" may not be alive.

"No matter how well prepared you are.. How far out am I supposed to get my neighbors to cut back, or property owners? You know, I can only do so much for my property," Kiener says.

Within 15 minutes, the fire blew over a nearby hill and scorched almost everything in its path. Just ten yards away, David Pena's home still stands.

"At that same moment two firefighters approached from each side of the house -- from the front and the back -- and helped out with us," said Pena, who was fighting the fire on his own until help came. "You know I had a sprinkler up on the roof, in front of the house.. So it helped."

Many would say Mother Nature is kicking Kiener while he's down.

"It's not like losing my mother. That was the hard part."

His mother died of cancer the day before Easter.

He says, even today, she is helping him see that life goes on.

"My mother prepared me for this. She instilled in me...these things can be replaced, but you can't. Your family members -- you may argue.. But they can't be replaced."

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