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Gratitude replaces fear as Foresthill-area Robbers Fire evacuees go home

Cal Fire says homes safer: 70 percent containment
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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UPDATE: 3:55 P.M. JULY 18 - Evacuees in some areas of the Robbers Fire zone were returning to their homes Wednesday, ending a weeklong ordeal.

And the first task for many was clearing up the sloppy, slimy, stinking messes that had once been freezers-full of frozen food. Many of the homes had been without electricity for almost a week.

Dave Shawl, one of the evacuees off Yankee Jims Road, said he had been helping clean up the mess in freezers at his home, as well as those of his neighbors.

"I've got a truckload of nasty stuff," Shawl said.

Shawl learned later in the day that Recology Auburn Placer will be opening the Foresthill Transfer Station on Thursday to allow residents to dispose of their spoiled food at no cost.

The Placer County Sheriff's Office gave the go-ahead to residents in selected areas, stating that several roads under mandatory evacuation orders since last Wednesday and Thursday would reopen at 9 a.m.

Mike Roberts, a 22-year Foresthill resident who evacuated, pulled a package of moldy strawberries out of his refrigerator on his return. But Roberts said he was just thankful that the damage was limited to some food.

Roberts said fire was reported to have traveled up the Shirttail Canyon as close as 500 feet to his home.

"We were on an emotional roller-coaster," Roberts said. "We've been fortunate and I have to thank these guys who were working so hard and risking their lives."

Throughout Foresthill, an attitude of gratitude replaced the smell of smoke and the aura of fear that had hung over the mountain community, 17 miles east of Auburn.

On virtually every street corner, someone had placed a hand-lettered sign praising the work of firefighters and thanking them for keeping the Robbers Fire at bay.

Foresthill's Shad Nichols returned to his home early Wednesday.

"We totally appreciate what they've done," Nichols said. "Thank goodness we had a lot of firefighters."

The Robbers Fire broke out the afternoon of July 11. Cal Fire said the fire was 70 percent contained by Wednesday morning - up from 60 percent Tuesday evening.

The fire's footprint has covered 2,650 acres and did not spread Tuesday into Wednesday morning. A total of 1,800 firefighters and support staff were working to ensure that no flareups occurred before targeted full containment on Saturday.

Cause of the Robbers Fire, which broke out between Foresthill and Colfax in steep, canyon lands near Shirttail Canyon Road, remained under investigation.
One home and four outbuildings have burned.

Details provided by Cal Fire Wednesday of the evacuation are:

- Yankee Jims Road, east of Small Hope Mine Lane, will be open in the direction of the communities of Yankee Jims and Foresthill. However, a Level 1 road closure (allowing only local residents to pass) will be in place at Small Hope Mine Lane. Only local residents living west of that intersection will be able to pass.

- Yankee Jims Road, between Canyon Way and Gillis Hill Road, will be open but a complete closure from that intersection eastward remains in place for Yankee Jims Road.

- Sheriff's personnel were stationed at the Small Hope Mine Lane intersection to ensure only local residents with some form of ID or, for instance, a utility bill, clearly identifying the bearer as a local resident, are allowed access.

- Residents of the Foresthill communities are requested to not travel west into the canyon on Yankee Jims Road until further notice due to continuing fire activity and road rehabilitation.

- South of Iowa Hill, a complete closure remains for Shirttail Canyon Road at Big Dipper Road.

- Mandatory evacuation of residents on King's Hill Road remains in effect until further notice.

- A total of 170 residences are judged by Cal Fire to continue to be threatened.
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For coverage and video from Tuesday, click here.

For coverage and video from Monday, click here.

For coverage Saturday, click here.

For Friday video coverage of the fire fight, click here.

For Thursday's video of the Robbers Fire, click here.

For Wednesday's coverage of the Robbers Fire, click here.

View our photo gallery from Monday's Robbers Fire coverage here.

Watch courtesy video of the California National Guard helping out with the Robbers Fire here.

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Have photos and stories about the Robbers Fire? Let us know, email us photos or information atajournal@goldcountrymedia.com; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/auburnjournal or on Twitter at @AuburnJournal