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Community rallies for fire victims

Garage sale, dinner planned to raise funds
By: Liz Kellar The News Messenger
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The Gladding fire on Labor Day fostered dozens of tales of heroism as firefighters battled to save homes, elderly neighbors helped each other evacuate and volunteers herded horses and other livestock to safety. But the helping hands didn’t quit after the fire was put out. Just two weeks later, plans are in full swing to help raise money for those who lost their homes, outbuildings or equipment in the fire. According to Lyndell Grey, a garage sale has been planned for Friday and Saturday, as well as a dinner on Oct. 5. “Many of us, just by luck, were spared and we want to help,” she said. Victims of the fire include Betty Robinson, who, although her front 5 acres burned, considers herself one of the lucky ones – their house on Farrell Lane was spared. “Our house is fine,” she said, although the couple lost a garage and two sheds. “My husband is blind and I don’t drive,” she said. “Our neighbors told the sheriffs and they came and got us.” Robinson said keeping the grass mowed short near her home is probably what saved it. “I still look down there (the front 5 acres) and get goose bumps,” she said. Their neighbors, Gerald and Philomena O’Reilly, lost their home in the blaze. They have moved into a rental home. Charlotte Hunt, a 92-year-old resident of Virginiatown Road, also lost numerous outbuildings and equipment. Her house was saved, although the porch steps and railing were burned and there is considerable smoke damage inside the house. “She lost all the functional outbuildings,” said Hunt’s daughter, Elaine Van Camp. “We lost a large hay barn my dad designed and built himself with the help of one other guy; it was a beautiful landmark out there and now it’s all burnt to charcoal. We lost a shop with all my husband’s tools, we lost all the fishing boats, a couple of tractors, a lot of equipment burned up, a tremendous amount. The tractor we were dependent on for brush control. It’s going to be a terrible mess to clean up.” Van Camp said most of the buildings and equipment were not insured. She added that besides the loss of equipment, much of the property’s fence line was demolished and must be reposted and restrung. “The fire was so hot, it didn’t even burn the fishing boats, it melted them,” she said. “They’re just puddles of aluminum on the concrete. We thought the buildings would be safe because they were surrounded by irrigation and plowed fields, but the fire burned right through the cattails and the blackberry bushes.” Other residents who lost structures include the Hutchinsons, the Kilmers and the Fegleys. According to the CalFire Web site, the 960-acre fire destroyed six houses and 10 outbuildings. A spokesman from CalFire said the cause of the fire still is under investigation. He added that two teens were arrested the day of the fire, but the arrests were not related to the fire. The yard sale will be from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 539 Aspen Meadows at Virginiatown and McCourtney roads. The potluck dinner is set for 5 p.m. Oct. 5 at Old Fruitvale School, 3425 Fruitvale Road. Tri-tip will be provided; community members are being asked to bring a side dish, salad or dessert. Tickets are $10 for adults, $3 for children. There also will be a silent auction, music and “celebrity goat kissing.” A donor tree will be set up for donations of $50 or more. Residents can also help by passing out flyers, requesting donations of cash and supplies, donating items for the yard sale and auction, and helping with the yard sale or dinner. Mail donations for “Fire Victims” to Fruitvale School, P.O. Box 58, Lincoln CA 95648. For more information, call 645-2873 or 434-1305.