I-80 drivers try in vain to snuff out Applegate Fire
“It got too big, too fast.”
Pete Enochs was witness to the beginnings of an inferno that spread quickly through the Applegate area from its origin as a series of spot fires that started alongside Interstate 80.
Enochs was driving from his Bowman home to Colfax on Wednesday afternoon when he spotted the first of three small fires he would see along a stretch of eastbound I-80.
“A man and woman were out of their vehicle, trying to put the fire out,” Enochs said.
Enochs, co-owner of the former Latitudes restaurant in
The third fire was on the east side of the freeway near the
“He said I wasn’t the only one,” Enochs said. “They were all in about a 3-mile stretch.”
The breeze-driven flames would travel east into the Applegate area, sending a plume of white smoke into the air that could be seen from Colfax and
On the ground, residents in the heavily wooded eastern side of the freeway were evacuating with whatever they could get into their pickups and cars.
Jim Doolittle, a
“I saw the smoke and fire and said, ‘I’ve gotta go,’” Doolittle said, as he sat in his van at an evacuation center set up at the Sierra Vista Community Center in Colfax. “It’s the first time I’ve had to run from a fire. Hopefully, I’ve got a house to go back to.”
While Cal Fire officials have said several fires started along I-80 and could have originated with “a poorly maintained vehicle or other human-related activity,” Doolittle said that he believed that it had been set.
“I hope they catch who did it,” Doolittle said. “It wasn’t an accident.”