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Clean Up Begins In West Calaveras County Fire zone

The flames of the Pattison Complex Fire have died down, but the clean up efforts could go on for some time.

California Department of Forestry officials have confirmed the destruction of 17 homes. A Damage Assessment Team has spent the week combing through the 2,676-acre swath the fire carved from Pattison Road north of Burson to Highway 12 south of Valley Springs.

Two of the destroyed homes were under construction. Three other dwellings sustained damage, 45 outbuildings were destroyed and one was damaged. Five vehicles were reported damaged with 50 destroyed by the blaze and 34 other miscellaneous types of equipment were destroyed.

The fire started at 1:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 3, when a 1974 Commander motorhome had engine trouble and the driver, James Batterton, 83, pulled over on Pattison Road.

“I don´t know what happened,” Batterton said Thursday from his Valley Springs home. “All at once it was on fire.”

He said he was getting the motorhome out of storage in preparation for taking his 98-year-old wife Jewel on a camping trip. Initially, Jewel was going to accompany James on the quick trip to pick up the vehicle.

“I´m sure glad she didn´t go,” he said, “because she would have been in the front seat and couldn´t have got out.”

He said the vehicle started to run hot so he pulled over. Batterton checked the water and then the oil in the RV, “and then a guy pulled up beside me and said your rig is on fire.”

Batterton said he tried to open the door to get a fire extinguisher that was inside but the knob burned his hand.

Torrence said Batterton will not be charged with anything in regard to the Pattison Fire, which was driven by unusually heavy winds.

“It was just one of those horrible accidents,” she said.

More than 3,000 people were told to evacuate their homes Friday evening as the flames threatened parts of the Quail Oaks, Rancho Calaveras, La Contenta and Valley Hills Estates subdivisions.

CDF officials warn residents to be careful in and around burned trees because limbs can suddenly fall.

“Tree bases and root systems may have been weakened by the fire allowing trunks and branches to come down during windy conditions,” a CDF press release said.

The fire crested a hill along Ross Drive and burned the roof off a redwood water tank that supplied Calaveras County Water District customers with drinking water. The roof of the 150,000 tank caved in, but the water supply was never compromised, Bill Perley, assistant operations and maintenance superintendent said.

Perley told CCWD board members at their regular meeting Wednesday that some piping changes were made and the lines supplying customers on Ross Drive, Brooks Lane and Leckie, Hagen and Didier roads were pressurized from pump stations down the hill.

“We´re trying to get two more pumps,” Perley said.

Residents in the burn areas are asked to curtail water usage until CCWD personnel tell them that a temporary tank system has been installed.

Perley told district directors that the state Office of Emergency Services gave approval for CCWD crews to pursue temporary repairs to the system.

Director Jeff Davidson, who lives near the burned area, said the fluctuations in water pressure in the lines have “stirred up turbidity” and made the water look cloudy on occasion, but the drinking water is still safe.

“We´ll be flushing lines again,” Perley said.

The board passed a resolution declaring an emergency and requesting state and federal relief. Perley said the district´s insurance company had reviewed the damage and directors authorized the expenditure of no more than $75,000 for “reasonable fire response costs.”

Davidson stressed the district needs to make sure the system is completely rebuilt. “We want not just what it takes to get us operational, but to get us back to normal,” he said.

“I´ve lived there since 1990,” Davidson said, “and this is the third time fire has come over that hill. This is not the last time.”

A special fund has been established at Central Sierra Bank branches of California Central Bank. Barbie Utterback, with the Foothill Fire Protection District Auxiliary, said she is compiling a list of residents whose homes were destroyed by the Pattison Fire.

“There are cans at several stores in the area,” Utterback said.

Those who wish to contribute also may do so at any Central Sierra Bank branch by mentioning the “Valley Springs Fire Victims Fund,” or by sending a check to 87 Highway 26, Valley Springs, CA 95249.

CDF crews can still be seen patrolling the Pattison Fire area, Torrence said. The cost of fighting the blaze has topped $2 million. The CDF fire camp paid the Calaveras County Fairgrounds just over $6,000 a day for the use of the facilities there, Diane Baumann, deputy manager of Frogtown, said.

Calaveras County Assessor Grant Metzger said property owners who suffered losses from the Pattison Complex Fire might be able to realize a reduction in their property taxes.

Applications for reassessment must be filed within one year of the disaster.

“The amount of damage must exceed $10,000 in order to qualify for property tax relief,” Metzger said.

Residents affected by other fires in the county this year also may be eligible.

Tax relief comes in two ways, Metzger noted. The current year´s taxes may be reduced on a prorated basis.

“Second,” Metzger said, “owners who rebuild will retain their factored base year value on the portion that is rebuilt.”

“…the law is quite complex,” Metzger said.

Homeowners are encouraged to call the Assessor´s Office at 754-6356.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Mike Taylor. For more Calaveras news, click:calaverasenterprise.com