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Gladding fire torches three homes

By: Cheri March
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At least three homes were destroyed as wind-whipped flames ripped through 500 acres of dry ranchland in rural Lincoln on Monday. Approximately 10 other structures and multiple vehicles and pieces of farm equipment also were lost in the fast-moving blaze, which was first reported off Gladding Road at approximately 12:40 p.m. Monday. By Tuesday afternoon, flames were 80 percent contained and expected to be fully extinguished by midnight, though crews would continue checking for hot spots for several days, said Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant. Berlant said Monday’s low humidity and dusty winds fed the destruction, spreading the fire nearly to Highway 193. At its peak, more than 400 personnel were on scene – including teams from Sac Metro, South Placer, Roseville, Rocklin, Foresthill, Newcastle and Placerville – as well as 52 engines, four air tankers, four helicopters, four dozers, four water tenders and eight hand crews. “Unfortunately we lost three homes, but there were 400 homes that were threatened,” Berlant said. “There was a lot more potential for destruction. Nobody was hurt.” Long after the last evacuees trickled back into their homes Monday night, Helen and Harley Hutchinson returned to the smoldering remains of their century-old farmhouse on Tuesday to pick through rubble and keep an eye out for their missing pets. Though the couple believes a pair of kittens inside the home perished, their outdoor cats and two dogs fled. “The only important thing now is the animals,” Harley Hutchinson said. “There’s nothing left to save.” Just a chimney, concrete steps and a windmill were left standing at the McCourtney Road address. Along with the home, the couple lost two barns, several outbuildings and several trucks and ranch equipment. “It’s just starting to sink in now,” Helen Hutchinson said. “Everything is gone. The house across the street is fine. It’s amazing how the wind blows.” Son Mike Hutchinson, who is housing his parents, stared sadly at the place his childhood home once stood. “It was an old ranch house,” he said. “I grew up here. My great-grandmother lived here.” Another neighbor, Julie Hueftle, said she knows the pain the Hutchinsons are going through. She lost her own home 15 years ago. In the moment, evacuees often don’t think to grab a checkbook, identification or birth certificate, let alone family heirlooms, she said. Harley Hutchinson, for instance, lost all of his diabetic medication. “There’s so much you can do ahead of time,” Hueftle said. “These guys lost everything.” Hueftle said she is raising funds to help Helen and Harley Hutchinson, who were unable to insure their home because of its age. For more information, call Hueftle at 412-6650.