Fire destroys home, displaces family

Austen Thibault, The Union Democrat

A fire that destroyed one home and forced the evacuation of others in Valley Springs Monday has been contained and clean-up crews will return today, according to Cal Fire.

The fire was contained at 2:51 p.m. after it burned one family's home, garage and guest home. It also burned 5 to 7 acres of brush.

The fire's cause is unknown. Some witnesses thought it started in the grass or brush behind Treosti Place and McCauley Road.

Vicky Autrey lived with her two sons and two sisters for about 13 years on the 6000 block of Treosti Place - the only property damaged in the fire. The structures were destroyed.

The family has been put up locally by the Red Cross, which Autrey happened to have volunteered for.

The only person home at the time was her sister, Michele Curtis, who is partially disabled and usually rides an electric scooter. She managed to flee the home and even help rescue some of their animals.

Diane Howard, neighbor and good friend to Autrey and Curtis, was there.

"The fire went so fast," she said, "right up the canyon, straight to Vicky's house."

Howard said a man helped her shelter her animals.

"It makes you proud of your small community," she said.

Cal Fire and Calaveras Consolidated Fire responded "amazingly fast" dumping load after load of retardant and stopping the fire from spreading around the neighborhood that remained mostly occupied, Howard said.

The Calaveras County Sheriff's Department issued a mandatory evacuation notice at 1:26 p.m., but whether residents knew about it or not, many decided to stay and protect their properties.

The evacuation order was lifted at 3:03 p.m.

Firefighters responded with at least one helicopter, two airplane tankers, one air attack plane, two hand crews, eight engines, one water tender, and one bulldozer.

No injuries were reported.

The Union Democrat
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