By Steve Large


EL DORADO COUNTY (CBS13) — Cal Fire has opened an investigation into how a local fire department’s fire engine was burnt over, leaving two firefighters hurt during the Country Fire in the community of Cool Thursday.

The twisted and burnt front end of a Garden Valley Fire Department engine sits in the middle of a blackened property. Two firefighters in the vehicle were forced to deploy their personal safety device shelters after being trapped by the flames as the fire burned over them.

Dispatch audio describes the first call to rescue them.

“We have a burn over with shelters deployed,” a dispatcher said. “On that also would like one medivac helicopter.”

The Garden Valley Firefighters were transported to the UC Davis Medical Center by ground. Authorities described their injuries as minor, with smoke inhalation and small burns. The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office is treating the incident the same way they would a crime scene, putting up crime tape, so they can preserve the scene for investigators.

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Cal Fire launched a “Serious Accident Investigation” to determine how the firefighters got into trouble and whether the cause was training, equipment failure, or something else.

Besides the ground attack, Cal Fire’s air attack on the Country Fire was aggressive. Helicopter water and retardant drops were repeated over and over in an effort to save homes.

As evacuation orders went out, Willard Schmeal got his things packed, only he did not leave. He saw the flames spreading fast.

“There was just a single white plume of smoke coming up and then very quickly all this happened,” Schmeal said. “I mean it was quick, it was quick.”

Six acres of Schmeal’s property burned in the fire.

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Pat Holley did evacuate. Given five minutes to grab what she could, she got her treasured paintings and her two cats, then watched the firefighters go to work.

“Watch the planes going over,” Holley said. “They’re constantly, the water buckets, the spotter, they’ve got it.”

This fast-moving wildfire in El Dorado County, threatening homes, and coming even closer to two firefighters, who lost their engine, but managed to survive.

Most of the mandatory evacuations were lifted by 8 p.m. Tuesday. Evacuations remained in place for Lou Allen Lane, Stoker Way and Circle Drive.

The fire has burned 85 acres and is 25% contained.

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