Colfax home destroyed in early-morning fire

Three adults unharmed; their pets perish
By: Martha Garcia, Colfax Record Editor
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Three adults escaped injury, but their pets perished, in an early-morning house fire in downtown Colfax. The residence is located at 104 W. Oak St., at the corner of Culver Street.

According to Cal Fire Battalion Chief Chris Paulus, “The structure was fully involved upon arrival” at approximately 3 a.m. Monday morning, and crews had the fire “knocked down within 10-15 minutes.” Extensive mop up continued until 8 a.m.

He said the residents were able to evacuate the home but their two dogs were killed in the fire.

Paulus said the structure and its contents were totally destroyed and the cause of the fire is under investigation. He estimated the loss to the single-story, single-family older home to be about $80,000.

Cal Fire engine operator Josh Lorenzo was part of the crew that responded to the fire and returned to the scene later in the morning to double-check for hot spots. He said that when his engine arrived earlier, “The house was fully engulfed, with flames up over the roof.”

In addition to Cal Fire, crews from the Colfax Volunteer Fire Department and Placer Hills Fire District responded to the blaze.

Standing outside the burned-out house at 9:30 a.m. Monday morning was Deana Ballard, who said she had been the tenant there until recently. Ballard said she had lived in the two-bedroom home for eight years until last November and there were many of her personal belongings still in the house at the time of the fire.

Property owner Jerry Campbell, of Colfax, was as the scene Monday afternoon, as a crew erected a fence around the burned-out building.
According to Campbell, the people living in the house were squatters.
“I’ve been trying to get them out of the house since December,” Campbell said. “They refused to get out.”
According to Campbell, who said he has owned the property for 25 years, there was no electrical power to the residence, and the occupants had been running a small generator for electricity.
Campbell said Ballard had moved out in November when she couldn’t pay the December rent, but the others stayed behind.
“I told them they could stay until the first” of December, he said. But the deadline passed and the trio continued to live there without every paying any rent, he said.
Mitzi Glazebrook said Wednesday she and her roommate Dave Kish were the tenants who narrowly escaped the fire. “The third person was a friend who was visiting,” she said. “That was the second night of her staying with me.” Glazebrook says they are not squatters, but the landlord said they were because he had not received rent payments. Campbell said he had begun eviction proceedings when the fire happened. Glazebrook said she has a cancelled check to prove payment through Dec. 18 but admitted there was no payment for January.
The pets lost in the fire were Glazebrook’s border collie, Bella. “She was with me everywhere I went,” Glazebrook said. “I went back in the fire to try to get Bella…. Dave would not let me go back in the house.” The other dog that perished, a 6-week-old chocolate lab, belonged to her friend Amanda, who was visiting.
Also at the site Monday afternoon was Fire Captain Specialist Mike Gallagher of Cal Fire, who said he was conducting the origin-and-cause investigation.
“I’ll try to find out where and how it started,” Gallagher said. He confirmed that the power had been off at the house, which was heated by a wood stove. He said it could take some time to determine the cause.
Neighbor Chris Edwards, who lives across the street on W. Oak, said he woke up just after 3 a.m. and saw the house engulfed by “flames 30 feet high.”
Robin Faires lives on W. Oak Street next door to the burned house. She said she had been up late trying to put her grandson to sleep and did not initially respond to phone calls, which she thought might be telemarketers but later learned the calls were from friends alerting her to the fire.
Finally, she said, “I opened my eyes. Everything was lit outside my window. I thought, ‘that’s not normal.’”
According to Robert Eger, a public affairs volunteer with the American Red Cross, the Red Cross responded Monday morning to assist the adults who were displaced by the fire. They were issued vouchers for a hotel stay for three nights, food and clothing allowances. “They were very grateful,” Eger said.

Gold Country Media’s Michael Kirby contributed to this report.