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Encampment fire closes overpass for hours (VIDEO)

Firefighters access the interior of the Banner Lava Cap overpass Thursday afternoon, dousing the smoldering structure. A Caltrans senior engineer deemed the structure safe and the overpass has reopened.
Photo: Elias Funez

A Thursday afternoon fire from a homeless encampment under the Banner Lava Cap overpass of Highway 49 caused issues for firefighters, Caltrans, and law enforcement officials after the fire ignited timbers within the bridge, forcing firefighters to make an enclosed space entry before deeming the structure safe.

Firefighters were on scene of the reported vegetation fire at 2:22 p.m., and had the forward progress of the fire stopped within 15 minutes.

Firefighters extinguish a homeless encampment fire beneath the Banner Lava Cap overpass Thursday afternoon.
Photo: Elias Funez

“Fire initially headed towards two homes,” Battalion Chief Chris Armstrong said. “First company came in and made that their priority to protect.”

Nevada County deputies reported making contact with one person in connection with the fire.

Firefighters douse the homeless encampment which sent flames toward two nearby homes before the forward progress could be stopped. No homes were damaged in the fire.
Photo: Elias Funez

While extinguishing the fire, firefighters noticed smoke was coming from the inside of the overpass — and out through vents on the underside — prompting them to gain access to the interior crawl spaces from the top of the Banner Lava Cap overpass.

Firefighters conducted a confined space entry, using personnel from Grass Valley Fire, Cal Fire, Nevada County Consolidated, CHP, and Caltrans crews, among others.

Firefighters perform a confined space entry to check on the source of smoke coming from the Banner Lava Cap overpass after a homeless encampment fire Thursday afternoon along the Highway 49 corridor, between Grass Valley and Nevada City.
Photo: Elias Funez

After removing some smoldering timbers possibly left from the construction of the overpass, the structure was deemed safe by a Caltrans senior engineer. Banner Lava Cap at Nevada City Highway/Ridge Road was reopened by 6 p.m.

According to the senior engineer, the structure will be further evaluated in the coming days.

Firefighters report on the conditions within the Banner Lava Cap overpass Thursday afternoon.
Photo: Elias Funez

To contact Multimedia Reporter Elias Funez, email efunez@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230



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