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Residents lose homes in Sunday blaze

Some lucky to have their houses escape peril
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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A 275-acre fire that burned residential and commercial communities in Auburn Sunday night left some residents feeling lucky to escape flames with just the clothes on their back, while others were thankful that their homes had luckily been spared. It also brought out those who wanted to help their fellow community members during a time of need. Auburn resident Antoinette Fabela pulled up to an evacuation center at Rock Creek School in Auburn and unloaded bags of food and drink to shelter volunteers. Fabela became slightly choked up with emotion as she explained how when she heard of the fire that had displaced so many and left some without homes, she felt compelled to help. “Because these are community members I just wanted to come out here and give to these people who lost their home,” Fabela said Sunday evening. Burned by an ember Three men stood outside of the Rock Creek School evacuation Center Sunday and uttered their disbelief at what had just happened to them a few hours earlier. Joel Roe, who lives in Eagle Apartments off Locksley Lane, said he could see smoke and fire across the street from his apartment. “In a matter of minutes it was all the way across to our apartments,” Roe said. Mark Pike, who also lives in the building, said he opened his front door to flames. “I walked out the front door and the flames were right there,” Pike said. “I couldn’t go back in so all I have is what I have on.” Roe said there was an initial panic as other residents started to knock on doors and wake up anyone who sleeping. Ray Obregon, an Eagle Apartment residents, said he was in the shower when he heard about the fire and quickly hurried to safety. Roe said he grabbed what he could from his apartment and left. “There were embers flying everywhere and one got on my shirt,” Roe said. He lifted his shirt to show a small burn mark on his stomach. He said as he left the apartment complex he watched a tree catch fire and the flames reach his building. “It caught our building on fire – it was pretty intense,” Roe said. Pike said he was still in shock from the incident. “It still doesn’t seem real,” Pike said. “Our apartment burned down to the ground.” ‘God has a sense of humor' Lori Wilson couldn’t believe it was happening to her twice. Wilson, an Auburn resident, knew all to well the feeling of losing a home. Four years ago on Aug. 28, Wilson lost her New Orleans home to damage from Hurricane Katrina. She said she and her dogs stayed at her home until they were forced to leave. “I ended up swimming out of my house,” Wilson said. So on Sunday as she returned to the Auburn home she owns with her boyfriend on Saddle View Court, she couldn’t believe that the cloud of smoke she saw rising against the skyline was near her neighborhood. She said she was able to get to her house and grab some important items. Then she and her boyfriend watched from a safe point as flames and smoke consumed their neighborhood. “It was surreal watching that today,” Wilson said. “I couldn’t imaging that it would be gone and we’d be doing it twice.” Wilson said she and her boyfriend watched as helicopter crews sunk near a pond to retrieve water. They listened as propane tanks exploded. And when the smoke cleared, they were in disbelief as they say their chimney was still standing. She said they went back to their home and were shocked to see the homes directly behind them and in front of them were destroyed. But their house was still standing. Wilson said fire crews told her that because her home had a significant amount of defensible space, they were able to save it. “It literally jumped our house,” Wilson said. “I feel like God has a sense of humor. He couldn’t do it to me twice.” Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com.