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Propane tank fire forces evacuation

Highway 65 shut in both directions
By: Stephanie Dumm Gold Country News Service
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LINCOLN - A propane tank caught fire around noon Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of area homes and schools within a mile radius. As of 6 p.m., the 29,000 gallons of propane inside the tank was still burning at its location on Nicolaus Road near J Street in Lincoln. Soon after the blaze erupted, the Lincoln Police Department evacuated area homes and schools, while the Lincoln Fire Department and area fire agencies battled constant flames. As of press time, the Red Cross had set up three evacuation centers. The centers included Lincoln Community Center, located at the intersection of First Street and Joiner Parkway; Kilaga Springs Lodge at 1176 Sun City Blvd.; and Lincoln Crossing Club House at 830 Groveland Lane. The fire started just before noon, when a worker at Northern Propane Energy was working on a tank, according to Cal Fire public information officer Chelsea Fox. The injured worker was transported to a local hospital. The extent of their injuries was unknown, Fox said Tuesday afternoon. Fox estimates the amount of propane burning to be 29,000 gallons. “Right now the fire fighters are putting water on it, and the best plan is to let the fire burn,” Fox said. Daniel Berlant, state spokesman for Cal Fire, said the goal was to keep the fire from being extinguished. “We are isolating it to the one rail car and don’t want to put out the fire,” Berlant said. “If it’s out, (the fire) has an opportunity to look for ignition. The fire fighters are putting water on the tank to keep it cool.” Fire officials would not speculate on how long the tank would burn and when residents could return to their homes. As of press time, there was no word if an overnight shelter would be set up. City Hall was evacuated shortly after the fire started, and Tuesday night’s City Council meeting was canceled. Western Placer Unified School District Superintendent Scott Leaman announced at the Lincoln Community Center evacuation center that the first day of school for the district’s 11 schools would be postponed. “One of the schools in the evacuation zone has our kitchen so we can’t feed the kids,” Leaman said. Highway 65 was closed at about 1:30 p.m. to both directions of traffic going through Lincoln. Southbound lanes were shut at Wise Road and northbound lanes were closed at Ferrari Ranch Road. As of about 6 p.m. Tuesday, there was no estimated time of reopening, according to the California Highway Patrol. In addition to the propane explosion, Buonarroti Ristorante had a small kitchen fire Tuesday afternoon that was quickly extinguished by the Rocklin Fire Department and Cal Fire. There were no reported injuries. The fire at the downtown restaurant happened after other businesses in the area were evacuated. Al Holland, who owns a barbershop on Fifth Street, chose to stick around for clients who might still want their hair cut. “I had four hair cuts scheduled this afternoon,” Holland said. “It’s affected my business.” Holland was the only shop keeper on his block to stay open, and the rest of the downtown area was empty and seemed like a ghost town. Residents at the Lincoln Community Center evacuation center seemed to be in good spirits, but wanted to know more about when they could return home. “We are very anxious,” Pat Langley, whose home on Sixth and R streets was evacuated. “I’ve lived there for 20 years, I want to know what’s happening to my home.” Terry Tracy, whose home near Third and I streets was evacuated that afternoon, said he was worried about the fumes. “The fumes travel fast,” Tracy said. Reach Stephanie Dumm at stephanied@goldcountrymedia.com.