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Rocklin man thankful for fire department's thoughtful efforts

By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Placer Herald and Press Tribune editor
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Jim Cowan said he is thankful for the thoughtful actions of Rocklin firefighters early in the morning Nov. 4, went they went “above and beyond” in saving priceless family memories.

“I’ve never seen or heard of firefighters going to that extent,” Cowan said. “They took my pictures and stuff off the wall; they even protected my neighbor’s plants.”

Rocklin Fire Chief James Summers said the cause of the fire is still under investigation. Cowan said he fell asleep with a couple of tea-light candles burning in their aluminum containers on his dresser. When he woke up around 2 a.m., flames were burning about a foot off the ground. He attempted to put out the fire with blankets and buckets of water, but was unable to. He sent his ex-wife, who was in town for a visit, downstairs to call for help, and he used a fire extinguisher, but even that only calmed the flames for a few minutes.

Summers said that when the first company arrived at the apartment, they found heavy fire involvement on the second floor, and called in a second alarm.

“What made the big difference is that our guys made a quick, aggressive attack and brought it under control within 20 minutes,” he said. “That was the key.”

Units from Rocklin, Roseville, Loomis and Lincoln helped fight the fire using six engines, two trucks, two battalion chiefs, the fire chief and a breathing air support unit.

Cowan, his guest and neighbors all evacuated safely, and the Rocklin Fire Department got to work. By the time the fire was out, Cowan said, his bedroom, his son’s bedroom and the upstairs bathroom were destroyed. Thankfully, he said, his 17-year-old son was staying at a friend’s house.

Upon returning to the apartment, Cowan discovered that firefighters had removed pictures from the walls and covered them with a tarp in the middle of the room to protect hem from smoke and water damage. His father recently passed away, Cowan said, and those pictures and family items were irreplaceable.

Summers explained that, whenever possible, it’s common practice for crews to save possessions, including taking pictures off the walls, moving furniture to the center of the room and covering all with salvage covers to protect them. In Cowan’s case, the first firefighters on scene were able to extinguish the fire upstairs, so the second company went to work salvaging the downstairs.

“We take a lot of pride in doing that, because fire is really devastating to people, and sometimes people lose everything,” Summers said. “So we try to save as much as we can.”

“My son is wanting to be a firefighter already, and I think what Rocklin did is just going to inspire him more,” Cowan said.

Recently laid off from his job with a plumbing company, Cowan is staying with a friend until his living situation gets sorted out. The apartment is uninhabitable, he said, and there are no available units in the Pacific Street complex.

Still, he’s keeping a positive attitude.

“It will all work out,” he said. “I’m thankful to God. I believe that there are bright linings, silver linings, in clouds all over the place. It just means something different is going to be forming.”