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Grass Valley Resident Defends Home From River Fire With Water Stored On Property

GRASS VALLEY (CBS13) – Firefighters battling the River Fire were thankful the winds calmed down Thursday allowing them to get a handle on the blaze.

Instead, we were seeing the damage the fire left behind with flames still lingering in the rubble. House after house was destroyed in a Grass Valley neighborhood off Meyer Road.

"It was a cross between Apocalypse Now and The Wizard of Oz," said homeowner Eric Gibbs. "There was propane tanks blowing up left and right."

Gibbs was one of the only neighbors who stayed behind to protect his home—fighting flames on his own with 2,000 gallons of water stored on his property.

"I just kept running back to my tank and filling this reservoir up and running around and putting out spot fires," he said. "At one point, my shoes caught on fire."

Gibbs defended his house, and his neighbors charred land showed just how close the fire got as he saw flames jump to his neighbors home.

"The house caught on fire, so I grabbed a chainsaw and cut a hole in the side of the house and put a hose in," he said.

The blaze burned so hot, they melted a Jeep with neighborhoods now turned to rubble in Colfax. It's impacting both Placer and Nevada counties and has scorched 2,600 acres so far. Robert Foxworthy, Cal Fire spokesperson, explained a number of factors are responsible for fanning the flames.

"Low humidity, higher winds, those all led to the fact that we had explosive fire growth on this," Foxworthy explained.

Fearing catastrophic destruction, UC Merced fire expert Dr. Crystal Kolden in a tweet named the area of Colfax, Auburn and Grass Valley as one of the highest fire-risk areas in the state. Fire officials explain support from overhead played a critical role in calming the flames Thursday.

"There was at some points a large, large number of aircraft here, just doing constant laps, dropping retardant, basically slowing the progress of this fire," said Foxworthy.

Fire crews are continuing to work on hot spots and monitor the area.  Evacuation orders are still in place for around 5,200 residents. Foxworthy said it is too early to tell when those restrictions will be lifted.

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