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Roseville blaze 100 percent contained; no homes burned

By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein | nathand@goldcountrymedia.com
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A grass fire that was likely sparked during a police chase was 100 percent contained Wednesday afternoon, but not before giving residents of a Roseville neighborhood the scare of their lives. The blaze started about 12:30 p.m. and burned 94 acres, said Roseville Fire Marshal Dennis Mathisen. It licked within feet of homes in the upscale neighborhood of Diamond Creek, off of Woodcreek Boulevard and came within half a mile of Diamond Creek Elementary. The open-space area that burned abuts the area and has seen fires before, neighbors said. “It was almost like a war zone,” said Richard Sosine, who lives near Diamond Woods Circle, closest to the flames. It was controlled by 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, though crews continued to battle flare-ups into the afternoon. No structures were burned or injuries reported. The blaze also knocked out a power transformer, blanketing more than 4,000 Roseville Electric customers in darkness – including the Galleria mall. Power was restored an hour later, Roseville Electric Spokeswoman Vonette McCauley said. Roseville Police Lt. Mike Doane said officials believe the fire started during a vehicle pursuit. “The suspect’s vehicle may have started the fire,” Doane said. However, the exact cause remains under investigation, officials said. The suspect, Patrick John Henry, 40, of Lincoln, allegedly fled a construction site on Secret Ravine Parkway at 12:13 p.m. after tripping an alarm. According to a police news release, officers then pursued the Henry as he drove his vehicle into an open grassland area northwest of Blue Oaks Boulevard and Fiddyment Road. He was apprehended after the 15-minute chase, and stolen property was visible in his trunk, police said. Fed by high winds, the small fire quickly took off and a plume of smoke was visible from Auburn. “It’s a ‘red flag warning’ day established by the state,” Mathisen said. “We’ve got plenty of resources on it both in the air and on the ground. The temperatures are OK but the humidity’s not great.” Wednesday afternoon, residents watched nervously as firefighters continued to mop and fire helicopters dumped their payloads of fire retardant. Nicole Gauthier was in the house she shares with her parents on Diamond Woods Circle when she smelled smoke. Her first instinct was that the house was on fire. “Then the sirens started and I went outside and saw fire across the street,” she said. A helicopter asked residents to leave, so Nicole grabbed her cat, Elizabeth. But she couldn’t find her other feline, she said. So she called her mom in a panic. “I said, ‘Don’t wait, just get out,’” her mom, Linda, said. “After seeing all those other fires in Southern California, we feel real lucky.” Nearby resident Josh Errecart was at work when his neighbor called and said, “I can see flames above your house,” Errecart said. It wasn’t the first time he’s been faced with disaster. A smaller grass fire in May, he said, spurred him and his wife to make an evacuation plan. “The first thing you think about are the animals, then the important things like pictures,” he said. “It kind of changes your whole take on things.” Kristina Darte was on a business call when her client interrupted her because of the noise of sirens and helicopters. “When I came out and saw everything, my first concern was the school,” she said. “But I think they’re far enough away to be safe.” Roseville City School District Superintendent Rich Pierucci said Wednesday that officials were monitoring the situation but a school evacuation plan did not go into effect. The grass fire comes just under a month after the 49 Fire destroyed dozens of homes in Auburn. That fire is still under investigation. Units from Roseville Fire Department, CAL FIRE/Placer County, and fire agencies from throughout the area responded to the blaze, Mathisen said.