Lobo, McCourtney fires destroy and damage homes; causes unknown | TheUnion.com

Lobo, McCourtney fires destroy and damage homes; causes unknown

Marta Weeks and her husband John sat in their respective vehicles Monday morning, waiting in bumper-to-bumper traffic as they tried to leave Lake Wildwood.

Thick smoke dominated the sky, and the pall from the Lobo Fire could be seen from miles away. The blaze led to mandatory evacuations, causing thousands of Lake Wildwood and Rough and Ready residents to flee their homes with pets and prized possessions.

Waiting for traffic to budge, Marta Weeks left her car to see if anyone needed help. She had extra space in her vehicle, and could have held more people or property.

Nearby she saw a woman who appeared to be in her 80s.

Then, to Marta Weeks’ surprise, the elder woman began comforting her.

“She said, ‘Don’t worry, sweetie, we’ll make it out of here,’” Weeks said. “She was so calm.”

Long wait out

The Weeks did make it out, arriving at First Baptist Church — a designated shelter — that morning. They were two of an estimated 8,000 forced to evacuate. Another 1,430 people in the Lake Wildwood and Rough and Ready areas fell under an advisory evacuation, officials said.

The Lobo Fire, growing to 900 acres Monday evening, was one of two fires that raged Monday through Nevada County. The McCourtney Fire, near the Nevada County Fairgrounds, reached 200 acres, authorities said.

Both blazes damaged and destroyed between 30 and 40 structures, Cal Fire said.

The fires, which led to school and road closures, forced people like the Weeks into long traffic lines. In Lake Wildwood, the line of traffic moved slowly toward Highway 20 along Pleasant Valley Road. Lake Wildwood security directed vehicles out of the community and onto the road.

It was like that when Darlene Dutcher, with Stonegate Protection, arrived at 6 a.m. at an entrance to Lake Wildwood. It remained bumper-to-bumper two hours later.

A few motorists went the other way, into Lake Wildwood, saying they needed to collect a pet or check on someone.

‘A huge glow’

News of the fire crept in overnight. Strong winds woke some people, leading them to learn about the blaze.

Jim Marich woke around 1 a.m. when his power failed. He then looked out his kitchen window and saw what he called a huge glow.

“It’s been getting worse ever since,” he said.

Marich stood around 8:30 a.m. on the west side of Lake Wildwood. A few others joined him, watching the thick smoke grow and hang over the east.

Chenoa Allee said she woke around 4:30 a.m. when her son and his friend arrived at her home.

“He said the end of his road was on fire,” Allee added.

Sheriff’s deputies and Lake Wildwood security announced the evacuation over loudspeakers as they drove through the area, Joe Zouzounis said.

County officials said cell phone users must sign up for their CodeRED alert notification system, which was operational Monday morning. Only AT&T landline phones have the service automatically.

Little traffic moved past the parking lot where Marich and others gathered to watch the smoke plume. A little farther north along Pleasant Valley Road signs blocked traffic from continuing, though a few vehicles disregarded the message.

Most drivers, like the Weeks, continued their trek south to the highway. They sat at First Baptist Church at 8:30 a.m., many of their possessions — as well as themselves — safe.

“I hope the winds stay calm, like they are now,” John Weeks said. “It’s a sobering experience.”

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

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