Homes go up in flames in Stockton

June 10, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
In Stockton flames destroyed a dozen homes and damaged 21 others. Neighbors say it was a chaotic scene. They say they were choking back the smoke while trying to defend their homes with garden hoses. It started around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday morning and there was a good two-hour fight before the smoke finally settled.

Stockton firefighters say it was a like a wild land fire sweeping through a suburban neighborhood. Several fires were burning at the same time.

"It was huge. It was like just the trees were on fire. It was like a wall of flame coming at you," said Mike Law, a witness.

It started along I-5 North, or March lane, at a condominium complex and quickly destroyed nine units and damaged 24 others. 30 mile per hour winds blew the fire from tree to tree, until it got to Lionel Perkins' home.

"I'm just frustrated right now. My whole life just left. My whole life just left me, man," said Perkins, a fire victim.

Perkins' home along with three others was destroyed. Six homes were damaged. Firefighters say the majority of burned homes had shake roofs that were set off by flying embers.

Mr. Perkins says he and his family spent a lot of time entertaining friends in their back yard. 32 years of hard work, he says, went up in flames.

Neighbors in the Quail Lakes subdivision say they couldn't understand why some fire engines were parked along the street and it appeared they were not responding. All the while, they say they were taking up garden hoses and fighting a futile battle.

"You got these people you pay, and they just sit there and watched it man. I can't talk any more," said Perkins, a Quail Lakes Resident.

"There's no intention to let it burn, we were just overwhelmed at the time," said Stockton Battalion Chief Robert Tuitavuki.

Chief Tuitavuki says there were fires popping up all over and they were trying to understand where to best apply their resources.

"It could have got a lot worse, a lot worse. Instead of 30 units, we could have lost 60 to 100," said Bat. Chief Robert Tuitavuki.

Chief Tuitavuki says there's no training for a situation like this, and now he says they'll be examining their efforts.

Mr. Perkins' home was badly damaged and as of Tuesday night, his family and about 32 others had been evacuated. A Red Cross shelter was set up at the Lincoln Presbyterian Church.


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