High winds fueled a vegetation fire that suddenly blew up into a massive blaze, torching dozens of homes in the northern area of Auburn and forcing residents to rush to safety as flames skipped from neighborhood to neighborhood. Hundreds of firefighters from across Northern California were called to battle the “49er Fire,” which grew to at least 275 acres and still had not been extinguished Sunday evening. Aerial footage from the scene showed entire neighborhoods in Auburn near Highway 49 taken down to the foundations, but firefighter resources were so focused on extinguishing the blaze that officials were not able to provide an accurate count of homes and businesses lost. At least 60 homes and businesses are known to have been destroyed. The fire was sparked near Highway 49 and Locksley Lane and Shale Ridge Lanes, and wind gusts from 20 to 25 miles per hour kept smoke and embers low to the ground, spreading the flames ahead of the main body of the fire and keeping fire crews off guard as they tried to save homes in the area. Authorities used reverse 911 phone calls to warn people to evacuate, but the seemingly random nature of the fire made it difficult to keep track of the numerous hotspots, according to CalFire officials. Business owners and homeowners alike had very little time to salvage what they could before fire overtook their property. Emma Lujan, the owner of a Harley-Davidson store in Auburn, says someone used a forklift to smash open the building and managed to save all of the motorcycles inside. “He broke in the front door — with the building on fire — and they rescued the bikes,” Emma said. “All the customers’ bikes were saved.” At about 10:00 p.m., the fire was about 60 percent contained, but authorities were hopeful that nightfall would bring better weather conditions for firefighting. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation. Meanwhile, residents are still anxiously waiting outside of the fire zone to find out whether their homes are still standing. As of Sunday night, the evacuations still in effect area at:
-Highway 49 east to Quartz Road
-Highway 49 north to Saddleback
-Dry Creek to Black Oak
-Florance to Stanley Drive
-Moss Rock and Shadow Rock.
Placer County Animal Services are setting up a service center to handle the care of animals that ran away ahead of the flames. Residents who find lost animals are asked to call the center first instead of dropping them off unannounced – (530) 886-5540.
All animals that are found will be put into a shelter until they are claimed. PG&E shut off power to 3,700 homes at the request of CalFire. Downed power lines were making maneuvering difficult for residents and firefighters inside the fire lines. Evacuation centers have been set up at Rock Creek Elementary School at 3050 Bell Road and Auburn Elementary at 11400 Lariat Ranch Road, according to the Placer County Sheriff’s Department. The American Red Cross is accepting donations for victims of the fire. They are in need of money donations (clothes are not being accepted), and they ask for checks to be made out to the “American Red Cross – Placer District,” designated to “49er fire.”
The Auburn office is located at:
American Red Cross, Placer District
457 Grass Valley Hwy. Suite 8
Auburn, CA 95603