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200-acre fire burns between Foresthill and Colfax

Voluntary evacuations begin on Robbers Fire
By: Gus Thomson and Nancy Hagman, Gold Country News Service
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More than 250 firefighters were working into Wednesday night against the threat of increasing winds to stop the spread of the Robbers Fire.

The fire erupted in steep canyon lands between Shirttail Creek and the North Fork of the American River. It charred 200 acres by 8 p.m. The fire was first reported at 3:24 p.m. The area is located between Foresthill and Colfax.

Light winds were helping to move the fire up a ridge above Shirttail Creek. Cal Fire public information officer Jo Ann Cartoscelli said the plan was to bulldoze and dig out a fire line at the top of the ridge to contain the blaze.

“Dozers are working at the ridgeline to stop it and air tankers are dropping water on the left and right flank,” Cartoscelli said. “We want to get on top of it tonight because of stronger winds Thursday and high temperatures.”

Winds were expected to gust to 18 mph on Thursday, creating a greater danger that the fire would spread. The fire was moving toward the small mountain community of Iowa Hill but away from Foresthill on Wednesday night, Cartoscelli said.

A total of 11 small roads near the fire were ordered closed and residents of homes that are located in the vicinity were warned of possible evacuation. Cartoscelli said about 100 people had gone to the Foresthill evacuation center, located at the Veterans Memorial Hall on Harrison Road.

The plumes of smoke could be seen from Auburn. In Foresthill, where the Volcano Fire of 1960 came dangerously close to leveling the community, the sight of billowing clouds of smoke were too close for comfort.

Shad Nichols was loading his family’s motorboat with clothes and other essentials to be towed away from their Yankee Jims Road home if the time came to evacuate.

“I was at work when my wife called from home,” Nichols said. “When I hit Foresthill Road, my heart dropped. I said ‘Man, that’s close.’”

Todd Valley’s Steve Schmale estimated the fire was eight miles away from his home but still a danger.

“We’re concerned, although we’re a little more worried about people we know who live along Yankee Jim’s,” Schmale said.

The smoke was providing an unusual backdrop for a bridal shower for Natalie Dixon at her family’s Yankee Jims Road home. But mother Brenda Dixon said the shower was a go, as long as the fire stayed away.

“These nice guys will say ‘get out’ if we have to get out,” Dixon said, pointing to nearby emergency personnel stationed at a makeshift barrier of orange cones placed across Yankee Jims Road.

Across the canyon, with the possibility of fire spreading farther toward Iowa Hill, officials issued an evacuation warning for the isolated community and a few homes at the base of the canyon were soon vacated. An evacuation center was also set up at the Colfax Veterans Hall on Sunset Circle.

Cal Fire reported that the fire started at the junction of Shirttail Canyon Road and Yankee Jims Road, where it crosses the North Fork of the American River. Cartoscelli said the cause of the blaze was under investigation.

For evacuation-related information, the Placer County Office of Emergency Services can be contacted at (530) 886-5310.

Gold Country News Service’s Nancy Hagman contributed to this report.