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Fire in Wildwood

John HartFirefighters from Rough and Ready and CDF attack a blaze at a Lake Wildwood home. The homeowners hadn't even moved in.
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Lucy Gratteau got her first hint while shopping for new carpet near her Lake Wildwood home Thursday, as one fire truck after another sped past the store.

“Is that something big?” she asked. “That’s an awful lot of sirens going on.”

Her shopping done, Gratteau met a road block as she neared her cul-de-sac home at 11879 Goldfinch Court, which overlooks the lake.



Much of the house was destroyed by fire, and flames were working on what was left.

“It’s good I’m not very attached to it because I haven’t moved in yet,” she said between chats with consoling friends and neighbors. “I’m glad we don’t have new carpet in there.”




The fire started around 11:10 a.m. when a crew was painting the house’s exterior, and firefighters stayed at the scene past 6:30 p.m.

“One of the painters came to my door and said, ‘Call the fire department,'” said Molly Bliss, who lives two doors away.

The fire started next to an oak tree, below a deck that leads to the front door.

The likely source was the element of a broken yard lamp that was mounted to the house below the deck and near the ground, said Battalion Chief Rob Paulus of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

With the switch on, the element made contact with a painting tarp and a “circuit” was completed with splashed paint, he said.

“An inopportune spark at the wrong time, and these things can happen,” Paulus said.

The light bulb had broken within the last few days, but it wasn’t clear how.

The fire drew dozens of onlookers as firefighters attacked it with water and foam. A tanker plane flew overhead, but didn’t drop retardant.

“This has been the quietest cul-de-sac we’ve ever lived in,” Bliss said.

It was western Nevada County’s second house fire in as many days, after flames damaged a North San Juan home near Oak Tree Road Wednesday. Unattended incense remains the suspected cause of that fire.

A painter with Yuba City-based Cruz Painting told firefighters that the fire was small when he first saw it – about one square foot – but quickly grew as it consumed the tarp. Workers had finished painting in that area about 10 minutes before the fire was discovered.

Flames ripped through much of the roof, leaving a gaping hole. Paulus estimated the damage at $200,000, but called it too early to say if the house were a total loss.

Not many contents were destroyed because Gratteau and her husband, Jim, hadn’t yet moved in, she said. They have been renting out the house for the past few years and planned to move in next month, after Jim Gratteau retires from his job in the Huntington Beach area.

Along with CDF, crews from Penn Valley, Grass Valley, Rough and Ready and Washington Ridge also responded, as did the Sheriff’s Office.

– Reporter David Mirhadi contributed to this story.


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