New blaze brings painful memories

Residents share comments, concerns about fires
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A 2-acre fire that began and was contained Sunday hit a little too close to home for some Auburn residents. The blaze broke out at Skyview and Moss Rock drives near Dry Creek Road, a few miles to the north of last year’s devastating 49 Fire. Jeff Brand, Cal Fire battalion chief and Auburn-area incident commander, said Tuesday there was some damage during the fire. “There were a couple structures threatened and burned,” Brand said. Brand said two civilians were injured during the fire. One was treated and released, and one was transported to a local hospital with a more severe injury. No further information about the injuries is available, Brand said. The fire was reported at 3:31 p.m. and contained by 3:50 p.m. Sunday, according to Brand. Brand said he was satisfied with the containment of the blaze. “I’m feeling great that the fire was contained at 2 acres,” he said. When the Journal asked if Sunday’s fire was related to the 49 Fire and the alleged arsonist who started the 2009 blaze that destroyed 63 homes and two businesses, Brand would only state that the cause was under investigation. The 49 Fire charred 350 acres of North Auburn land and caused an estimated $40 million in damages. Jack Kenny, who lives on Creekside Place and had to rebuild his house after the 49 Fire, said he feels uncomfortable about the unknown cause of the recent fire. “My only major concern is these fires, how are they starting?” Kenny asked. “If we do have an arsonist, how do we catch them? Every time I hear a fire truck it makes me think, ‘What’s going on?’” Southpark Place resident Ryan Willis, who lost his house in the 49 Fire and is currently rebuilding, said he thinks Sunday’s fire only cements the fact that residents are still waiting for answers regarding last year’s fire. “All the things that went wrong in the 49 Fire as far as suppression efforts, those things still need to be addressed,” Willis said. Willis said he thinks when there are strong southwestern winds, the fire risk should be considered very high. “Cal Fire or the county should be doing patrols and be ready to respond,” Willis said. Jim Parish, who lives on Northpark Place and watched his neighbor lose her house during the 49 Fire, said he felt apprehensive when he noticed the smoke on Sunday. “I was out … in the back, and I saw the smoke, and everyone in this neighborhood is a little gun shy when they see smoke,” Parish said. Parish said he and several neighbors watched the smoke for about 15 minutes and were relieved to see that the fire was being contained quickly. “It sure brought back those horrible memories of the smoke and the planes circling around,” he said. Parish said he would prefer to believe the fires are not being started on purpose. “It would be much better to believe in the (electrical) pole (starting the 49 Fire) than the arson thing,” Parish said. “You wouldn’t want anyone in this neighborhood to find the arsonist first.” A PG&E electrical pole came into question at the start of the 49 Fire investigation. However, in October Cal Fire officials said an arsonist and not the pole started the blaze. Investigators have yet to release information about the suspected arsonist. Ruth Krasner, also a Northpark Place resident, said she doesn’t believe the fires were started on purpose. “I don’t really think it was arson to begin with,” Krasner said. “That is pretty scary, but I have a hard time believing somebody would be purposefully starting these fires, although it does happen.” Krasner said Sunday’s fire brought back the feelings from the 49 Fire. “It was just kind of scary,” she said. “I heard the sirens. It took me about five minutes to get out of the house. It stayed with me for a couple hours afterward. I don’t know that I will ever get over that day.” Genetta Ison, who had to rebuild her house on Northpark Place after it was lost in the 49 Fire, said when she heard the sirens Sunday she immediately got her daughter, who is in a wheelchair, out of the house and up the street to a neighbor. Ison said the response time to Sunday’s fire seemed much faster than she remembers from the 49 Fire. The fear of fire is still great in the area, because the entire Northpark subdivision backs up to a vacant lot owned by a man who lives outside of Auburn. Neighbors have funded some clearing in the field, but it still poses a threat, Parish said. “That’s still like a powder keg sitting out there,” he said. Ison said neighbors helping each other before, during and after emergency situations is key. “If we hadn’t helped each other (during the 49 Fire) there would have been lives lost,” she said. Ison said she finds it hard to believe arson was involved in the 49 Fire if no one has stepped up to report it. “If they don’t have any clues by now, I just have a hard time understanding that,” she said. “Either people saw it or they didn’t.” Reach Bridget Jones at