Blaze takes Claremont teacher’s home, but not her optimism

Sydni Myrick-Causey, a fifth grade teacher at Foothill Country Day School, lost her Pomona home in a terrifying early morning fire on March 14. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

by Andrew Alonzo |

March 13 had been just another routine Wednesday at the Pomona home of Sydni Myrick-Causey, a fifth grade teacher at Foothill Country Day School. After putting her 2-year-old daughter to bed, she hit the hay herself around 11 p.m.

Then about 1 a.m. she was startled awake by her 11-year-old son who ran into the room where she and her two daughters were sleeping, shouting that a fire had broken out in his room. Myrick-Causey ran to his room and saw a raging blaze.

“When I went in, I was a little bit startled because … it was bigger than what I expected,” she said. Myrick-Causey attributed the fire to either a faulty power cord or outlet. She later learned her son had been awakened when the heat from the fire popped his air mattress.

She thought she might be able to extinguish the fire herself, but seeing it grow rapidly, she realized she had to get out. She grabbed her phone and ran to the front lawn. Her children were already outside, but in the panic and confusion, she went back into the burning home to confirm all three were accounted for, and took one last look at the now raging conflagration.

“I was like, ‘I have to get out of here, there’s no way I can put this out,’” she said.

Her terrified children were screaming. Neighbors ran over to help and shepherded the children into the safety of their home. She dialed 911.

Soon she realized their 14-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Spaz, had yet to join them. She asked arriving firefighters to search for him inside. They found him in a laundry basket. He was gone.

“There’s always that, you know, what if I had … when I’d gone back to the room, what if I had thought about my dog?” Myrick-Causey said. “I assumed that he was in the living room sleeping and that he would eventually just wake up and that was far enough away from the fire where I was thinking he would be okay but, yeah …”

Scenes of devastation from an early morning fire on March 14 that consumed Sydni Myrick-Causey’s home in Pomona. Photos/courtesy of Sydni Myrick-Causey

The 41-year-old teacher said the ordeal was traumatic for everyone, even her husband, James Causey, who was away on a business trip to Sacramento and learned of it via phone call. Watching her home engulfed in flames, Myrick-Causey thought of calling her mother to describe to her the unbelievable situation unfolding before her. But she was on a red-eye flight to Atlanta at the time.

“I was standing there with no shoes on and just thinking, ‘Oh my gosh,’” she said.

Myrick-Causey thought once the fire was out, she and her family would be able to get inside to retrieve their belongings. But unfortunately, the fire destroyed nearly everything, and the few items they did save are charred, and reek of fire. Understandably, the smell triggers an emotional response, Myrick-Causey said.

Days later, Lou Petracci and his daughter Emma started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the family. To date, more than $35,000 has been donated. The money has mostly been used to cover new clothes, monthly bills, and everyday things.

“I cannot put into words how grateful I am for that,” Myrick-Causey said. “I don’t know how I’m going to thank 230 people who have given to that, but I’m going to find a way because what they did for us and my family is … life changing.”

Since the fire, the family have moved from hotel to hotel. On Wednesday they finally moved into a Claremont townhome where — thanks in large part to the generosity shown them through the GoFundMe account — they will stay until their home is rebuilt in about a year. Living in hotels introduced a whole host of new concerns for the family.

Some of the Los Angeles County firefighters who helped extinguish the March 14 blaze at the Pomona home of James Causey and Sydni Myrick-Causey, second and third from left. Photo/courtesy of Sydni Myrick-Causey

“When you have a 2-year-old, you’re thinking about like, are they going to be hungry when they wake up? And, what are we going to eat? You know, keeping my kids fed has been kind of my number one thing, but also not just fed but healthy,” Myrick-Causey said.

Though the family has certainly been shaken, they’re finding humor in tragedy. Myrick-Causey recently posted a photo on social media jokingly advertising her home as a possible horror movie filming location.

The overwhelming support from her neighbors, family, and friends, and her unshakable optimism have served her well through the ordeal.

“The good is coming,” Myrick-Causey said. “We get to have a new house now. We get to have that whole space renovated and something new and better. Through all of this we have seen the strength in our community and just been so grateful for all of the support and love and generosity that people have shown to us. It’s just really unfathomable how people have been so generous to us.”


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