Darrell Smith and Mila Jasper
The Sacramento Bee
Oct. 12—They were all gone within minutes, Sarah Thompson’s place and Jeff’s and Pam’s, too.
Dustin Brandon barely escaped his trailer. He pointed to the ash that was left. Dennis Barbour’s home was one of the first to go — 30 years of memories gone in three minutes.
Barbour’s 74, his mother’s in her 90s. They’re safe — they’re all safe — but everything they had at Rancho Marina Mobile Home & RV Park in Isleton is gone.
“I’ve lived here 30 years, Barbour said, using a cane to gingerly walk alongside Brannan Island Road, the levee road that leads to what remains of Rancho Marina. “There’s a lot of stuff here. Irreplaceable.”
As many as 150 residents were forced from their homes as 42 structures in the community surrounded by the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta were destroyed in a devastating fire Monday.
In an afternoon update, Sacramento County spokeswoman Janna Haynes said 25 mobile homes and 16 RVs were destroyed, along with a park building.
Another 20 structures remained threatened Tuesday, but firefighters expected containment by day’s end, said Deputy Fire Chief Hugh Henderson of the River Delta Fire Protection District. The fire was 60% contained and holding by afternoon.
No injuries were reported. Firefighters received assistance from neighboring departments and air support from Cal Fire “which greatly reduced some of the damages” to the mobile home park, Henderson said.
Fueled by fierce winds that peaked at 35 mph around the time the fire broke out, the 40-acre vegetation fire raked across the community of mobile homes situated by the confluence of the Mokelumne and San Joaquin rivers in the far southwestern corner of Sacramento County. Those winds dropped to about 20 mph by 6 p.m., but gusted again Tuesday morning as River Delta, Isleton, Walnut Grove and Cosumnes Fire crews worked to stamp out hot spots.
A Frantic Rush to Safety
Taylor Hoff is 23, lives with her fiance, Dylan De Masters, in Space 18 at the rear of the park. They drove back the next morning from a motel room in Stockton — the only place Taylor said that would take in their dog, Harley, and the two cats, Mariah and Sir Gato — to find that somehow their mobile home survived the inferno, homes on either side blackened by flames.
“We assumed that everything was gone,” De Masters, 26, said. He showed a photo taken from his cellphone, as if to prove to himself their home was still there. “The firefighters must’ve focused on our place.”
Sarah Thompson is Taylor’s sister. Taylor’s mom lives at the park, too, and gave Taylor the call. It was about 4 p.m. Monday, on what Taylor says was the windiest day of the year.
“My mom called me, said the park was being covered by smoke,” Taylor said Tuesday, Dylan and sister Sarah by her side. “I helped my sister get the dogs and the kids out and within 20 minutes, they told us to start evacuating as quick as we could. It was the worst wind we had this year. It chose the worst day.”
Sarah’s trailer and Brandon’s next door were right in the fire’s path. It was Brandon’s second fire at the park, he said Tuesday.
The wind-blown fire hit the park and “just went sideways,” Brandon said. He and a co-worker staying in a spare bedroom escaped the flames. The sheds went up first, then the trailer, then the propane tanks — his 120-gallon tank and the 500-gallon tanks near the park’s entrance.
“Mine blew up immediately. It was crazy to watch,” Brandon said. “My house, Dennis’ — they were gone in three minutes.”
Wind Pushed Blaze in Minutes
The strong winds that tormented the Sacramento Valley on Monday — what meteorologists call an Inside Slider — stormed through the Delta turning a fire in a nearby field into an inferno in minutes. Sarah on Tuesday pointed to her sister’s black hoodie.
“The smoke was as black as her sweatshirt,” Sarah said.
“Within minutes, (the fire) started in a field, caught a house, and then it started popping,” Taylor said.
By daylight Tuesday, Taylor and fiance Dylan stood on the side of Brannan Island Road, their home still standing, and took stock: Taylor and Dylan were engaged a couple of weeks ago, Sept. 26, Dylan said; a week ago Friday, someone took off with Dylan’s work van.
Then Came Monday
“Yeah, it’s been a week,” Dylan said. “But, they say, we got each other.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation, said Henderson, the deputy fire chief.
Rancho Marina remains under a mandatory evacuation while as many as 60 firefighters continue to work the blaze. Deputies from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office were also on scene assisting.
The Red Cross has set up a service center for residents at Isleton Elementary School, 412 Union St.
A number of GoFundMe campaigns have also been set up for residents. Here’s a sampling of what’s online:
— Help Patsy single mother rebuild from house fire
— Help Lee & Brian Nunes
— Help us rebuild. We lost everything in a fire
— Help this Family after a Fire
— Help Krys and Tony recover from wildfire!
— Lost everything in a fire
— Arnold family fundraiser
— Helping Mom With Living expenses
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