O'Reilly Fire

Fire broke out Friday afternoon north of old downtown Angels Camp and north of Utica Park, prompting fire crews, tanker trucks and breathing support techs to scramble from all over Calaveras County to try to protect one of the oldest, most historic towns in the Mother Lode.

An unknown number of structures burned in the fire, Sgt. Greg Stark with the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office said. A cluster of residences around Utica Park were evacuated, Stark said.

Tanker pilots from Columbia Air Attack flew through rising curtains of smoke to do low-altitude retardant drop runs over homes near old downtown, unleashing clouds of red moist, mist intended to quelch the flames threatening more structures.

Multiple engine crews and other firefighters were being told to stage at Bret Harte High School before 6 p.m.

Public safety dispatchers discussed evacuations for at least one individual who needed oxygen. There was also talk of a possible suspect wanted for questioning about how the fire or fires started, and a description shared on some radio communications channels.

Initial reports were of a brush fire behind O’Reilly Auto Parts at 740 S. Main St. before 5:20 p.m. There were reports of the fire threatening structures near Utica Lane and evacuations were being ordered on some residential streets.

Fire commanders and law enforcement shut down Main Street through downtown Angels Camp during the firefight. Main Street in Angels Camp is Highway 49.

Multiple aircraft responded from Columbia Air Attack Base, including a traffic control plane, a helicopter and two tanker planes. Firefighters on the ground were getting a handle on flames by 6 p.m. A supervisor at Columbia Air Attack said at 6:15 p.m., “Our tankers are on load and hold for now.”

Temperatures were peaking in the mid-90s Friday afternoon in Angels Camp and remained above 90 degrees after 6 p.m.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or 770-0405. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

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