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Crews Get Handle On Bennet Fire That Threatened Structures, Burned Cars In Grass Valley

GRASS VALLEY (CBS13) — Plumes of smoke 200 feet high, airdrops from above and hand crews on the ground brought an aggressive approach to a fast-moving fire in Grass Valley.

"It was a wall of flame. It actually started out as a size of a car and it was a wall of flame in a matter of seconds," explained resident Larry Huntington.

Huntington lives on the property of the Bennett Industrial Park Trailer storage facility. He was in his trailer when the Bennett Fire started and tried to fight the flames with his own water truck.

"Panic starts setting in. I couldn't see. It was white and dark smoke, trees erupting," he explained.

Officials issued evacuations for 4,269 people and shelter in place orders for an additional 2,709 residents. Shelter-in-place orders were for some facilities directly in the line of the fire, including assisted living facilities Atria and Crystal Ridge Care Center. Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital was also placed under a shelter-in-place order.

"It's the risk versus the gain. Do we bring them out in the smoky environment and risk all the potential issues that come along with that, or is the building safe enough inside to protect them? The decision was made today that we could protect those buildings," said Cal Fire Chief, Jim Mathias. "we sent a lot of our resources to make sure the fires don't get to those buildings, so those folks are protected and then we send resources outside of that structure to make sure that structure doesn't catch on fire."

As of Wednesday night, no structures were reported as damaged. The fire burned about four cars in the area.

"The fire was in and amongst a lot of commercial buildings, very few residences were in direct threat," explained Mathias.

Around 200 firefighters were assigned to the fire from different regions, including local, Cal Fire and nearby regional crews. Air support from Cal Fire also played a crucial role and subduing the flames as fast as possible.

"We were lucky enough to be less than 2 air miles from our Grass Valley air attack base to get multiple air resources on this fire very rapidly with a short turnaround time," Mathias said.

Hot spots in the area remain a concern. At the start of the fire, hot spots jumped ahead of the fire line causing concern for crews. Mathias explained Wednesday crews will aggressively tackle and patrol the area that is already considered contained, to prevent hot spots outside of the containment line.

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