Fire guts living quarters in rural Auburn

By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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When Rick O’Reilly saw flames coming from his neighbor’s outbuilding Friday afternoon in rural Auburn, he acted quickly, alerting the 86-year-old man who had been asleep in his home about 50 yards away from the unoccupied rental unit.

Firefighters arrived minutes later and fully contained the fire in about 15 minutes, saving the attached workshop, though the two-story living quarters of the building was a complete loss, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jim Mathias said.

No injuries resulted from the fire that O’Reilly said appeared like it could have quickly gotten out of hand.

“Another 10 minutes, all of it would have been gone,” O’Reilly said. “And then the nice thing was if I wasn’t home, he was asleep, so I don’t know where it would have gone from there, if it would have gone next door or not.”

Alvon Boyer has lived at the Bell Bar Road home since 1984 and he and his wife rent the auxiliary house to a recent college graduate, the latest occupant of the “little road stop,” as Boyer put it. It has been used on-and-off as temporary housing over the years, he said.

 “I was asleep in the front room with the television on. I didn’t hear nothing,” Boyer said. “(O’Reilly) come waking me up, said, ‘You better get up and look.’ He had already called the fire department and everything. … Thank God everybody is safe. Nobody got hurt at all.”

Placer County Fire Department’s Wise Road station is less than a mile away from the Bell Bar Road home, so firefighters arrived almost immediately after getting the call at 12:46 p.m., he said.

The fire burned about a six-foot section of the fence bordering O’Reilly’s yard, and it still had been smoldering as he watched firefighters still at work nearby.

The cause was still under investigation Friday, Mathias said. Four engines and two water tenders had been dispatched, and Auburn, Placer County, Newcastle and Penryn fire departments all responded.

“It was well-involved by the time the first engines got here,” he said. “They extinguished it pretty rapidly.”

O’Reilly, an appraiser, had been working when the flames caught his eye. At first, he thought it was a coming from a tree near the building.

“I looked a little harder, because it was really going and then I realized it was behind the tree, so it was like the second story was just starting to go. There was quite a bit of flame,” he said.

O’Reilly said after calling it in, he ran over to check on Boyer. At its worst, the flames reached about 10 feet into the air, he said. O’Reilly said he opened the door to the burning building, hoping to salvage whatever he could, but the incoming airflow only stoked the flames, so he quickly shut it.

“There was nothing worth grabbing that I could see,” he said.

The firefighters had been fast to respond, O’Reilly said.

“They were pretty quick here, and once they got here they were off and running,” he said. “I was helping them drag those hoses around, man they weigh a lot. I had never done any fireman work.”


Jon Schultz can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews