Marie-Elena Schembri Writer, Photographer & Visual Artist Marie-Elena Schembri Writer, Photographer & Visual Artist

Valley Springs family loses everything in house fire

Valley Springs family loses everything in house fire

Marie-Elena Schembri, Calaveras Enterprise, June 15, 2023

Tia and Josh Shannon were about 130 miles from home, sleeping at a friend’s house in Santa Cruz, when their home on Lime Creek Road in Valley Springs went up in flames in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 3.

Their 20-year-old son, also named Josh, had stayed behind when the rest of the family left to attend a family friend’s high school graduation in Monterey, and was believed to be in the home when the fire started.

Frantic and pumped full of adrenaline, the boy’s grandfather, Neil Shannon, who lives next door, entered the home after realizing it was on fire, screaming the boy’s name. When no one responded, he called his daughter-in-law, shouting that her house was on fire and her son was nowhere to be found. He had tried to call Josh Jr., too, but got no answer.

The 74-year-old was up early around 6 a.m. when he thought he smelled an electrical fire. He looked around his own home first, but everything seemed normal. Then he went outside and walked toward his son and daughter-in-law’s home, where he saw flames through the front windows.

Neil began dousing the house with a hose through the broken windows, but it was already engulfed. Flames shot up the walls and across the ceiling.

“I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, the smoke was so bad,” he stated. He told his wife to call 911.

Finally, after a series of phone calls between family members, the panicked mother heard her son’s voice on the phone say: “I’m out here, Mom. I’m with a firefighter.”

The 20-year-old had been asleep in a camper parked just feet away from the house when a loud explosion woke him. As he headed for the street, his grandfather had entered the other side of the home looking for him.

In the chaos, one of the family’s dogs, a 5-year-old Boston Terrier, escaped the home unnoticed, while the rest of the family’s pets, including a 10-year-old Pomeranian, named Foxy, and three cats, weren’t so lucky. Two cockatiels, a parakeet, a conure parrot, and a handful of fish perished in the fire, which decimated the home and several vehicles parked near the building.

“It’s a total loss,” said Josh Sr. as he picked through the charred rubble, looking for his wife’s wedding ring on Thursday, June 8 — the first time he had been back to the house since the day of the fire. His grandfather built the one stone wall that was left standing.

The Shannon family returned home on the morning of the fire the week before, not knowing what they’d find, hoping their home or vehicles would be salvageable. Unfortunately, aside from the camper and the family’s auto repair shop next door, almost everything was destroyed.

A cause for the fire has not yet been found, and the home was uninsured.

The Shannons are now staying with a family friend, and will soon be renting a house as they work to clean up the wreckage, and eventually rebuild their home.

“I want to stay around here. I love Valley Springs. I’ll never leave Valley Springs,” said Tia, a former Valley Springs Elementary paraeducator. The Shannon children — Josh, 20; Jesse, 16; and Jia, 10 — were all raised in Valley Springs and are enrolled in local schools.

The Shannons are grateful for the support of the community and donations they’ve received, but they have a long way to go.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for them by a family friend, Melissa Burdick, and Jenny Lind Elementary Principal Kassie Domingo Meeks is organizing a bake sale to take place at the Mar Val grocery store in Valley Springs on Saturday, June 10. Zippy Mart gas station, just a short walk from their home, is collecting cash and gift cards for them, and teachers, classmates, and the kids’ teammates have been bringing the kids clothing and pet food. Others have stopped by to help the Shannons clear rubble, look for their belongings, or just to offer condolences.

One man stopped by to give them a $100 bill, saying that Josh Sr. had once helped his mother with car trouble free of charge, and he wanted to repay the favor.

“He helps people so much all of the time. It’s really nice that all that kindness is coming back to him,” said Josh Sr.’s sister, who was there to help sort through the ruins of their family home.

Contributions can be made to the GoFundMe campaign at, and donations can also be sent directly to the Shannons via Venmo @Tia-Shannon-1 or by reaching out to Tia on Facebook.