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Fire briefly threatens homes in Springville
SPRINGVILLE — A fire that broke out about 1:12 p.m. Wednesday in the 33000 block of Tule Oak Drive was contained without any damage to homes or other structures in the area.
According to CalFire Fire Capt. Aldo Gonzalez, who was on hand to investigate the fire, the first responders to the fire were firefighter aircraft from the Porterville Air Base, which were there in four minutes. Because of the nature of the area, both CalFire, Tulare County and the U.S. Forest Service responded.
“At this time (1:16 p.m.) we received a phone call of a fire. They said they heard a tree falling over and there was a flux in power,” Gonzalez said.
CalFire Capt. Shelly Mitchell was in charge at the scene while the fire was being contained. She said that it moved over a hill, but that the approximate total area the fire reached was less than three acres. Gonzalez said that because the weather was hot and windy, there was an initial concern that the grass fire would spread to structures, which is what prompted the Tulare County Fire Department to be called out along with CalFire. However, Gonzalez noted one very important aspect to the geography that kept the fire contained, the fact that the dry grass around the homes was cut lower than 4 inches in length.
“The owner has done his own fire abatement by cutting the grass and weeds,” Gonzalez said. Other factors play parts in how far a fire will spread. “It all just depends on the terrain, the area, wind, roads, no roads.”
Gonzalez said that prevention was the most important factor when it comes to fires.
“It should be taken seriously. That’s your kingdom,” Gonzalez said of the house, “And when it goes, it’s all gone.”
After investigating the scene, Gonzalez suspected the cause of the fire to be an oak tree that had fallen over into a set of power lines. He wasn’t sure if the bottom of the tree had become brittle or rotten, and he was still investigating where the power lines specifically triggered the fire. What Gonzalez could say for sure was that there was no damage except to grass and the initial damage to the electrical lines themselves.
“They are out of electricity at this time,” Gonzalez said of the houses in the area.
When asked if an evacuation had been called, Gonzalez could not confirm that one had been. “As far as a community evacuation, I have no information in regards to that.”
Those living in the houses nearest to the fire did leave their homes for the safety of neighbors’ homes across the street. The home first threatened by the fire belonged to Chris and Linda Henry. At the time the fire started, the only people home were Linda and her and her husband’s two sons, Preston, 4 and Reese, 13.
Linda Henry first realized there was a problem when the electricity went out in her home.
She left the home to talk to her neighbor and discovered the fire.
“I just grabbed the kids and called 9-1-1,” she said. She initially put her children in their family vehicle and was going to drive away, but encountered the fallen power lines, which were laid across their driveway. “We stopped the car in a panic. I wanted to make sure my kids were safe.”
She then called her husband, Chris.
“I was at work when my wife called me up hysterical,” he said. “I knew the house would be safe because of the fire break.”
Both Henrys commented on the fact that they were thankful for that fire break, as without it, they might not have been so lucky.
Chris Henry suspected, after inspecting the roots and the branches of the oak that had fallen, that the tree wasn’t sick so much as erosion in the soil and the weight of the tree led to it falling.
“We get a lot of run off from an orange orchard above the house,” Chris Henry said. He added that there are a lot of gophers and gopher holes in the area and that it can get very windy there. Henry was saddened by the fact that the tree had fallen, as he enjoys the oaks growing naturally around his home. However, the thing that he is most concerned about now is the return of power to their home, and the condition of their well, which is located beneath the fallen tree.
“The guy from Edison said I’d have power up tonight,” Chris Henry said.
His wife added that today was their youngest son’s birthday and they planned to hold the party at their house. For Wednesday night, Linda said, they would stay with her mother.