Structures Destroyed, Firefighters Injured in El Dorado County Wildfire

EL DORADO COUNTY -- A wildfire burning near the El Dorado County community of Cool prompted evacuations Tuesday afternoon.

Cal Fire reports firefighters have stopped the forward progress of the Country Fire. It had burned 85 acres and was 65% contained by Thursday morning.

Cal Fire received multiple calls around 1:30 in the afternoon about smoke along Highway 193 in Cool.

"Terrifying, it was terrifying," said resident Mary Murdock.

Murdock was one of dozens of residents who received orders to evacuate.

"You know, I'm trying to get the horses into the horse trailer and get them to safety and the flames are headed this way," she told FOX40.

She said she would have had to drive through flames to get the horses out. Instead, she chose to stay and take the horses to a neighbor's home further away from the flames as the fire raced through her neighborhood.

All evacuation orders had been lifted by Wednesday evening.

A mobile home on the same street where Murdock lives, Lou Allen Lane, was in ruins. It was one of four structures Cal Fire reports were lost in the fire.

A shed behind a home on Circle Drive was destroyed but the fire spared the home itself. Flames lapped at the foundation, scorching the building.

In addition to the large ground response, a trio of helicopters drenched the fire zone for hours, using water from nearby ponds. A tanker also dropped retardent on the flames.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Logan Kalfsbeek said the cause of the fire is under investigation but Cal Fire believes it started along Country Hills Lane. That's how the fire came to be called the County Fire.

In addition to the one structure and three outbuildings that were lost, fences were destroyed, power lines were down and a fire truck was badly damaged.

Two firefighters suffered what Cal Fire is calling heat-related injuries.

All roads from Highway 49 and Highway 193 east to Sweetwater Trail were closed.

Nevertheless, there was a sense in the foothills that a major disaster was avoided. Defensible spaces, like the wide clearing around Murdock’s house, made all the difference.

"Any home with defensible space. One, it gives us a control point to put resources in and stop the fire front and actually get a holding point where we can work from without having to worry about the fire flanking us," Kalfsbeek explained.

Cal fire will re-evaluate Wednesday the strength of containment lines and the safety of the neighborhood as they decide when to lift evacuation orders.

Meanwhile, Murdock will sleep in her own bed with a new appreciation for the firefighters in her densely wooded neighborhood.

"Everything could have gone up, everything. I mean, everything could have gone up," she said.

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