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Blaze uproots ‘Santa’ from his North Auburn abode

Thankfully, cherry red ’68 Chevy was in the shop
By: Michelle Miller-Carl, Journal news editor
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The man who plays Santa Claus is having many gifts given to him following Sunday’s 49 Fire. Jack Kenny, who portrays St. Nick for children at the Auburn Boys & Girls Club and the Breakfast with Santa at Applebees each December, lost his home on Creekside Place. Kenny said he was moved to tears by the offers for help he’s received. Tuesday he moved into a friend’s second home in Loomis. “I have had dozens, and I say dozens, of people call me wanting to help,” he said. “I want to thank everybody who’s been calling. It’s unbelievable the love that comes out of this.” Kenny, who is also chairman of the Auburn Cruise Nite car show, was at home working in his garage Sunday when he smelled smoke and saw ash. Fifteen minutes later, the smoke turned to flame. “I ran back in the house and the smoke started coming in, it smelled really heavy,” he said. “The cat freaked out, I couldn’t catch him, and my dog who’s 17 years old and blind bit me two or three times, I may have hurt her, but I just wanted to get her out.” As he exited his home, he saw two little girls around 10 years old outside with hoses dousing the exterior of their house. The girls’ mother had run up to the store just before the fire swept the neighborhood. “I went over and told them ‘You are not going to stop this’ and told them to get in my car, we’re getting out of here,” Kenny said. As he was driving out, he passed the mother in her car, who was rushing back to get her daughters. Returning to the aftermath of the blaze, he said he couldn’t find much — just his fire safe. “It looked leveled. There’s nothing left. Cars melted to the ground,” he said. “The funny thing is the fireplace doesn’t look like it was touched.” Although he lost many things, two Santa suits and mementos from his years in the Navy included, it’s the things that can’t be replaced he misses the most. “I got an award from (California Assemblyman) Tim Leslie saying I was the best Santa in the state,” he said. “That can’t be replaced.” Lucky for the classic-car aficionado, his cherry red 1968 Chevy truck that is a fixture during summer’s Auburn Cruise Nites was at a shop in Newcastle during the fire. “If it was home, I would have left my car and took the Chevy,” he said. “You can get another car, but you can’t get another truck like this.”