Yesterday, I spent the day with my parents out in the car for a day trip. This time my Step-dad decided on going up to Nevada City for breakfast and then on up the hill to Truckee for window shopping and lunch. When we arrived in Grass Valley on Highway 20, we heard sirens and then saw an ambulance and a fire truck racing up behind us, then we saw off to one side of the road a large column of smoke rising up through the trees. We couldn't see what was burning, and with my folks in the car, I wasn't about to go chasing the smoke with my camera to get photos. Also, we weren't able to get over to the side in traffic so that could step out of the car to get a photo of the column of smoke. So, once the emergency vehicles were clear of us, I took the turn onto Highway 49 so that we could get up to Nevada City.
*Skipping forward in time, when we got back to Yuba City and my parents home, I got on their computer to look up some information and found that the smoke was saw in Grass Valley was a fully involved apartment building. Two people were injured and about 13 were left homeless. (Source of photo and information: The Union) One of the injured was a woman who was apparently in the apartment where the fire started. She suffered burns and injuries from exploding oxygen tanks. I haven't been able to find information on how she is this morning. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
After breakfast in Nevada City, we traveled on up to Truckee and spent a few hours wandering around the town, window shopping and enjoying the cooler weather. There are a lot of very interesting little shops and lots of friendly shopkeepers. After wandering through the shops and having a little lunch (No comment on the lunch nor the restaurant we ate at beyond the fact that I doubt if we'll be going back there.. lol), we headed back down I80 towards home. I'd say about half-way down from the summit, I saw flashing lights in the rear view mirror, and it wasn't a cop. It was a fire vehicle (Not a fire engine, it was a supervisor vehicle. An SUV type.) and he literally flew past us and we lost sight of him rather quickly. A couple miles after we lost sight of him, we saw off in the distance between the trees a very large column of smoke billowing up. It was nearly impossible to tell at that point where the fire was because the road twists and turns so much. We got a few more glimpses of the growing column of smoke as we traveled down the highway. And we saw a lot more fire vehicles, engines, crew trucks and supervisors. As we got near Applegate, the color of the smoke suddenly turned from the brown/tan color of a brush or wildland fire to thick black smoke. We knew then that there were structures involved. And from the amount of smoke, we thought there a lot of buildings involved.
After we got off I80, we drove down near the town of Lincoln so we could get a clear view of the smoke and stopped so that I could get out of the car to take a couple photos. In the photo to the left, you can see the thick, dark color of the smoke. At this point we were less than 10 miles (as the crow flies) from the fire. In the next photo, you can see a wide shot of how the smoke was "laying down" and being blown to the north. Even during the few moments we were stopped alongside the road while I took those few photos, we saw another fire truck go by with lights and sirens.
*Skipping forward in time again to us looking up the fire information on the computer at my folk's house, we found out that the smoke we'd been watching on our way down from Donner Pass was the "49er Fire" in the northern part of the city of Auburn. And the black smoke we saw was coming from 50 to 60 structures that were being destroyed. Businesses and residences both. I haven't seen a full official count of structures lost yet. There are still a lot of trucks and firefighters out on the fire this morning, and the last I saw, the fire is still just 60% contained.
The rest of the drive home was uneventful, thank goodness. We unloaded our goodies from Truckee and sorted things out and watched some of the news coverage of the fire in Auburn. I headed for home then, but on the way, I decided to stop and take one more photo looking back towards Auburn and that column of smoke. I picked a spot where the highway climbs up a levee on the Sutter Bypass and pulled off to the side of the road. At this point, all you can see of that black column of smoke we saw earlier is a smudge against the horizon because of the haze in the valley.
The latest information from the CalFire website says that the 49er fire has burned 275 acres (Down from the 500 acres the news stations were reporting yesterday due to more accurate mapping of the fire today.) The CalFire website is also reporting that 60 structures were either damaged or destroyed.
In other fire news, the Station fire near Los Angeles doubled in size overnight to 85,750 acres burned. And it took the lives of two Los Angeles County Fire Department firefighters yesterday.
The official release about the deaths of the firefighters is here:
Firefighter Line of Duty Deaths
It is with our deepest regret to inform you the media of the Line Of Duty Deaths for Fire Captain Tedmund "Ted" Hall and Firefighter Specialist Arnaldo "Arnie" Quinones. These two members tragically lost their lives when the where overran by a fast moving fire which approached Fire Camp 16 on the "Station Fire" Incident.
Fire Captain Tedmund "Ted" Hall was 47 years of age and was a member of the Los Angeles County Fire Department for 26 years and lived in San Bernardino County, California. Firefighter Specialist Arnaldo "Arnie" Quinones was 35 years of Age, and was a member of the Los Angeles County Fire department for 8 years and lived in Palmdale, California.
Funeral arrangements are pending and information relating to services will be made available in the near future.
For additional information, please contact Captain Mike Brown, Public Information Officer at (323) 881-2413.
I've said many times that firefighters are heroes. We have two more fallen heroes now. Please say a little prayer or have a good thought or two for these two heroes as well as for their families, friends and co-workers.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today issued the following statement after two Los Angeles County firefighters died while fighting the Station fire:
“Our hearts are heavy as we are tragically reminded of the sacrifices our firefighters and their families make daily to keep us safe. This is a devastating day for firefighters everywhere and Maria and I join all Californians in expressing our gratitude and sadness. Our hearts go out to their loved ones.”
The other blog that I post on has information as well: California Fire News
So many firefighters out there on all of the fires that are threatening people, homes and wildlands. Please take a few minutes today and think of the thousands of men and women who choose to protect you and yours.