Man says neighbor a hero

Union Democrat staff /

A Columbia-area man says his neighbor is a "hero" for waking him when his home caught fire on Friday.

The fire happened on the 22400 block of Gunsight Road, near Quail Mine Road. It was reported about 8:22 a.m., said Cal Fire spokeswoman Lisa Williams.

It started in the flue and spread to the attic, said Cal Fire Capt. Darrin McKinney.

"My neighbor from a few doors down woke me up in my bed saying, 'your house is on fire,'" said Rick VanWinkle, adding that he has no sense of smell so would have continued sleeping.

"I laughed at him. I thought it was a joke, but it was no joke."

Adam Jimenez, the neighbor who woke VanWinkle, was visiting his friend's housewhen the fire broke out.

He said he heard a noise, thought it was a door opening, and looked outside to see smoke.

"I went around to the side of the house and saw flames and woke Rick up," he said.

VanWinkle called his friend "the hero of the day."

In addition to Cal Fire, units from Tuolumne County Fire, Columbia and Columbia College Fire departments responded.

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