Family struggles after a fire destroys home |

Family struggles after a fire destroys home

Elaine Goodman
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune/ Barbecue coals on the deck started the fire at 1650 Tionontati St.

When young musicians in the South Lake Tahoe area have needed a helping hand, Paul Howell has been there for them.

Howell, a musician himself, has helped with their sound systems during performances, let them practice at his home and even taken them in for awhile when they needed a place to stay.

“With open arms, he takes them in, loves them, teaches them – love, life, forgiveness,” said Paul’s partner, Lisa Thomas. “He’s a mentor. He’s amazing.”

Now the Howell family – Paul, 50, Lisa, 43, and their 21-year-old son, JP – are the ones who need help.

Nearly all their belongings were destroyed in a fire March 9 at the home Howell had been renting for about six years on Tionontati Street in Meyers. The equipment Howell uses in his work as a painting contractor, two trucks, recording studio equipment and equipment used by JP’s band, Desire to Die, and other musicians were all lost.

The family’s three dogs – and JP’s pet ferret – died in the fire.

Thomas said the family had been unable to afford insurance.

Stephanie Amundson, who is friends with many of the musicians in their early to mid-20s who considered the Howell’s house a second home, described the fire as “devastating.”

“A whole bunch of kids go over there to play music,” Amundson said. “It’s sad to see it (the fire) happen to someone who’s so close to everybody.”

The fire was started by barbecue briquettes on the home’s front deck, said Curt Warren, assistant chief with the Lake Valley Fire District. Warren said charcoal briquettes had been used in a propane barbecue because the propane tank was nearly empty.

Thomas said it was a miracle that Howell escaped the home “without a scratch.” He had been home alone sleeping when the fire broke out.

Thomas said Howell’s father, a Baptist minister who died last year, was clearly watching over him.

Since then, the family has received help.

Howell now has more clothes than he did before the fire, Thomas said.

He has been able to borrow a vehicle and equipment so that he can continue to work.

The family had found a temporary place to stay and was hoping to sign a lease on a house this week.

But the cost to replace all the lost property is daunting.

Some area musicians have been discussing a fund-raising concert, but a date had not been set, Thomas said.

Thomas also can be contacted regarding monetary or non-monetary donations at (530) 318-2759.

You can help:

Donations may be made to U.S. Bank, account No. 253452321248.

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