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Resident fights Newcastle fire with garden hose

1.5-acre fire started on Interstate 80
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Editor
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Quick response by a tactical fire team heading to the Robbers Fire and residents with garden hoses kept a 1.5-acre brush fire in Newcastle from causing any major damage today, Thursday, July 12. According to Erich Schwab, a battalion chief with Cal Fire, the call came in at 4:21 p.m., about a fire located one mile below the Newcastle exit on eastbound Interstate 80. He said a tactical team from Roseville Fire that was traveling to the Robbers Fire got the call as they neared Newcastle and were on the scene immediately. Schwab said that while resources are being spread thin by the large fire near Colfax, in this case it was actually a help. Vickie Lopez, who lives in Castle City Mobile Home Park in Newcastle, nearly lost her home as the fire spread from its origin point along eastbound Interstate 80 and headed up the slope towards her mobile home. Her husband, Ray, who is recovering from knee surgery and is immobile, said the first warning that anything was amiss was ashes dropping down. Vickie Lopez said she then saw a ?wall of fire coming towards us.? When asked if she was frightened, she said, ?Oh, hell yes.? ?I told my neighbor to grab her dog and run. And she did. She was screaming,? she said. Vickie Lopez said she and the woman?s uncle then got garden hoses and sprayed the flames that were moving from an open space area next to the property. She said Newcastle Fire arrived and sprayed the swath of land adjacent to the mobile homes. ?They were here quick,? Lopez said. Maree Klee is the mobile home park manager and she said she was ?very concerned.? She said the property that burned is owned by the park and that the grass had been cut back. Schwab said emergency responders included crews from Newcastle, Penryn, Rocklin, Auburn City, South Placer and Cal Fire. The fire was visible from the freeway and brought eastbound traffic to a crawl, which caused fire crews traveling on Interstate 80 to the Robbers Fire to use flashing lights and bypass traffic in the center emergency lane. Schwab said the current weather conditions of heat and low humidity combined with dry fuels have created an ?extremely high danger? of fire. He said it is not too late for residents to clear dry grass and brush from their properties, but ?choosing the time of day is critical.? ?Don?t do any clearing after noon. Do it in the early morning,? he said.