The skies over Stockton aglow for all the wrong reasons Thursday night.
Instead of brightly shining stars, there were tongues of bright orange flame lashing out at part of the massive Recycled Fibers plant – six hours after crews first tried to drown them out.
“The call originally came out as a pile of paper burning outside of the plant,” Stockton Fire Chief Jeff Piechura.
But the situation quickly exploded into something much different.
“We had a large propane tank at the paper warehouse that ruptured. We think that hot metal is what caused our railroad tie fire to start burning,” said Piechura.
That blaze a stone’s throw from the plant – one of 18 fires sparked by flying embers sailing scarily along on winds gusting up to 40 miles per hour.
“It’s a very scary feeling to watch these fires with the debris to start these fires like this,” said Cesar Flores of Stockton.
While Flores watched the danger float by, the Perez family was forced to react.
“We were all inside and my sister came in telling us there was fire coming over the fence,” said Yanette Perez.
Within minutes flames began to consume a house, another building and a field all connected to the Perez home.
Neighbors carried in water buckets and hoses, defending the homes on the Perez property right down to those of the chickens.
Those helping hands had Perez feeling “very lucky.”
A great early save, but lots of potential for a scary night with embers still flying and the plant still burning.