Wednesday Sep 02 2009
Rocklin firefighter’s home threatened by the 49 Fire
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
Blaze was just four homes away before being stopped
For the first time Sunday, veteran Rocklin Fire Captain Martin Holm faced a California wildfire threatening his own family and home. “I was leaving home and I saw the column (of smoke) and I decided to stay,” Holm, an Auburn resident, said. In his two decades of fire experience he knew it was going to be bad. “The way the fire was burning, where it was burning and where it could go was concerning,” Holm said. “I knew if the wind shifted, our subdivision could be threatened.” Within an hour it was time to evacuate. He comforted his wife and told her to leave with the kids. With no fire equipment, Holm went door to door to let his neighbors know what was going on. “I stayed there because a lot of the homeowners didn’t want to leave,” Holm said. “I had an agreement with them. If I said it was time to go, they would go.” He told people with garden hoses to turn them off because he knew firefighters over the ridge would need the water pressure to stop the advance of the 49 Fire. Holm watched as the fire advanced over two ridges before stopping in a drainage ditch in his subdivision just four houses down from his off Dry Creek Road. Having been a member of a strike team fighting blazes in Southern California, it all came back. “It is not a good feeling,” Holm said. “The homes you do save gives you the greatest feeling in the world, but you also feel horrible because of all the families who lost everything.” This time those fire victims were his neighbors, devastated and facing a personal loss. “This one being so close to home, my daughter is crying and our friends are losing their homes,” he said. “It’s harder to deal with. But nobody died and nobody got hurt.” Holm said he hopes more people in Auburn will take the fire as a wake-up call to do more to protect themselves. Besides creating the immutable defensible space buffer around the house, he said homeowners need to think about proper fire resistant roofing, siding and decking. “If the homeowner keeps their house in pretty good shape, it improves the odds of firefighters being able to save it,” he said. But he said when firefighters say it’s time to go, homeowners need to take their advice. “We’re out there to save them all but we can’t play God,” Holm said.