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Teens take blame for brush fire

By: Gloria Beverage
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Three teenagers admitted to Placer County Sheriff’s deputies late Sunday afternoon that they were responsible for starting a brush fire in the canyon behind Hillcrest Boulevard. The two-acre fire was reported at 2:54 p.m. on Saddleback Lane, reported Calfire spokeswoman Chelsea Fox. A 14-year-old Colfax youth apparently told Deputy Ryan White that he started the fire with a cigarette lighter, reported Placer County Sheriff’s Sgt. Troy Minton-Sander. The teen, along with a 16-year-old Colfax teen and a 15-year-old Alta resident, said they attempted to put the fire out, but it got away from them. “It was a full response – eight engines, one bulldozer, one water tanker, two hand crews, four air tankers as well as a helicopter from the Tahoe National Forest,” said Fox. Fire departments responding included the Colfax Volunteer Fire Department, Calfire, Placer Hills, Peardale/Chicago Park and Placer County. Due to the difficult access as well as the dense brush and trees on the access road, residents were told to prepare for evacuation. Fire crews were able to have the fire contained by 4:07 p.m., Fox said “Thankfully, all the crews involved – Calfire and Colfax Fire — were at the top of their game and jumped on it extremely quickly,” said Chris Bushman, who lives one-half mile from where the fire started. “I used to be a fireman and I watched these people do an extremely efficient and professional job. Placer Sheriff’s units were everywhere and did an extremely great job too.” Bushman said his first reaction was to help his next-door neighbors. “They had only moved in seven days ago and I guessed they might be in need of help,” he said. “I was surprised and delighted to find that several neighbors were already there – offering their help.” The neighbors helped evacuate the family and their pets as well as some of their personal possessions. “I met neighbors that I had never seen before,” he said. “They were there to offering everything they could. It was heartwarming and awe-inspiring.” In hindsight, Bushman said, the crisis proved a valuable practice run. “We did a lot of things wrong and it pointed out to us that we need to be better prepared,” he said. Most importantly, he now realizes how much he appreciates the small community. “We moved to Colfax (a couple of years ago) because it’s a nice place with nice people,” Bushman said. “Until today, we had no idea how incredibly wonderful those people really are…This is a great community, but it can be even better if we think a little harder and plan a little better. We need to always be there for each other.” Minton-Sander credits the sheriff’s deputy and CalFire’s Prevention Officer with determining the cause of the fire. Residents told the officers that the teens had been on the access road to the river before the fire started, Minton-Sander said.