Thursday, July 31, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

July 4 fire shakes up Collinsville residents

6 collinsville fire 1

Ruth Baldetta, center, looks over the remains of her home after it burned down with neighbor Christy McKarley, left, and daughter Suzanne Jones in Collinsville, Saturday. The July 4 fire destroyed at least five homes but caused zero casualties. Baldetta said her home was about 75 years old. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)

By
From page A1 | July 06, 2014 |

COLLINSVILLE — Rose Papetti Curreri remembers when her town burned down more than 75 years ago. The Collinsville native was only about 12 when flames hopped over the shingled roofs of the small Delta community in the 1930s.

“The same property burned,” she said.

The 90-year-old watched history repeat itself, Friday, as a wind-swept fire tore through several homes on the Fourth of July.

“This one, it was all red flames and a lot of smoke,” she said. ” . . . The smoke was really black, and it was up high – and it sure was hot.”

The summer home of Curreri, who was spending the weekend with family, was spared. But her neighbors weren’t so lucky. The fire was quick to work its way over several homes, boats and vehicles, leaving residents cleaning up Saturday.

“(There was) more damage now than there was a long time ago,” Curreri said.

Ruth Baldetta lost everything, including her dogs and kittens. The home she shared with her son, his wife and their two young children was reduced to charred rubble.

“It’s all gone,” she said.

The family wasn’t home when the fire broke out Friday afternoon. Baldetta was running an errand out of town and the others were on a boat trip when she got a call from her neighbor reporting that a fire was burning a nearby house.

‘They said, ‘Yours is probably next.’ But I couldn’t make it over here in time to get my dogs,” Baldetta said. “That’s what I wanted, was my dogs.”

Montezuma Fire Protection District Chief Joe Rosewall said he thought Baldetta was in the house when he broke down her door during the fire.

“We got there, smashed the front door in, but the heat was so heavy in there, and the smoke was so heavy in there, that we couldn’t go inside,” he said.

Fire crews were dispatched at 1:30 p.m., and when they arrived one structure was already involved, Rosewall said.

“It moved through there real quick, the wind was pretty strong there at that time,” he said.

Rosewall said winds of about 15 to 20 mph helped spread the fire, and after about 30 minutes most of the damage was already done. He said the fire totally destroyed eight homes and damaged three. The damage estimate is $2.5 million.

About 25 people were displaced, he said, and the American Red Cross stepped in to help. No firefighters or residents were injured.

“The only (lives) that were lost were pets, dogs, cats, birds, fish, guinea pigs,” he said.

Baldetta lost two Chihuahuas, birds and four kittens. Her son also had three dogs that died in the house, but the goats and chickens on the property were spared.

“Some of those people lost everything they had except what they had on their back,” Rosewall said.

There are only about 20 homes in Collinsville with a few vacancies, so the blaze practically wiped out half of the town along the Sacramento River that carries a tradition of fishing and the fame of Joe DiMaggio’s one-time residence.

“Everybody here knows everybody,” said Barbara Fischer, Baldetta’s daughter.

Fischer was helping her family comb through the rubble, Saturday, but there wasn’t much that could be salvaged. While Baldetta stood near some melted record albums, one of her daughters uncovered what was left of the grandchildren’s piggy bank.

Fischer was trying to hold back the tears.

“(Mother’s) motto is, “Never get attached to material things . . . but it’s the memories we lost,” she said.

“That’s what’s good about a brain,” Baldetta said. “You have memories.”

The family wasn’t allowed to return to the property until Saturday when they would see what was left of the old home that had been in the Baldetta family for generations.

“We kind of knew what to expect, but, still, it’s so heartbreaking when you see it up front, close . . . personal,” said Fischer, who lives in Lodi.

“It is, but I expected it,” Baldetta said. “I’ve already accepted it, what can I do?”

“The only thing is the dogs,” said Fischer. “That’s the very saddest part.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Reach Adrienne Harris at 427-6956 or aharris@dailyrepublic.net. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aharrisdr.

Adrienne Harris

Adrienne Harris

Adrienne joined the Daily Republic in September 2009. She earned her journalism degree at the University of Florida in 2005 and has worked at newspapers in Fort Pierce, Fla.; Las Cruces, N.M.; and El Paso, Texas.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 10 comments

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  • elleryJuly 06, 2014 - 1:10 am

    How did this fire start? You have to be nuts to live in Collinsville in the first place. Which one of them started this thing ?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • EMSgirl64July 06, 2014 - 1:45 am

    What a rude comment! You insult the residents of Collinsville yet you're all nosey about how it started? Like you care! Get a life! Rude, miserable people like you never have anything nice to offer or say. Sad.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • MikeJuly 06, 2014 - 6:36 am

    So sad for this tight-knit community. Glad to hear no residents were physically hurt in this tragedy.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • S KJuly 06, 2014 - 9:50 am

    The fire's origin is still unknown, the article says. I'd say, Columbo or Adrian Monk isn't needed to figure this one out. Even Ray Charles could have seen it. Come on, 4th of July weekend>>>FIREWORKS, legal or ILLEGAL, both bad IMO. Let just hope that remnants of the, "SaFe & Sane," variety sold in Suisun, weren't the cause. If so, Suisun ought to be held liable IMO!!!!!!! The same probably is the cause of all if not most of the fires in the news. All of them should be ILLEGAL, and the use of ANY should result in a 30 day lock up in the county jail. Don't like or agree with my comments, then turn your head AWAY!!!!!!!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • JazzAzzJuly 06, 2014 - 9:53 am

    I totally agree!!!!! Thank goodness my little pet is either getting hard of hearing at near 15, or just has gotten used to it, but the sounds of what were obviously M80s, exploding around Gadwall in Suisun, didn't awaken him, next to me on the sofa, but sure as heck made me jump, dang them (@#$%^&*) A__HOLES!!!!!!!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • RingoJuly 06, 2014 - 9:56 am

    Yeah, maybe the neighbors ought to create their own, BOOOOOM, by leveling a shotgun directly at those firing off that garbage, since the police can't handle it, obviously, all around town.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. PracticalJuly 06, 2014 - 6:25 pm

    SK, if you sold someone your car and they go out and get drunk and kill someone, should you be held legally liable?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • S KJuly 06, 2014 - 6:37 pm

    If it were my car, I probably could, would be held responsible, my car, my insurance, and maybe my pockets would be deeper, as Suisun's pockets probably are compared to who may have lit the stuff, IF IT were Suisun's sold, "Safe & Sane," garbage.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Ulises S. GuberJuly 06, 2014 - 9:59 pm

    You guys are so determined to condemn Suisun City and the Safe and sane fireworks. Some how you are convinced that only fireworks start fires, most fires are started by discarded cigarette butts from passing motorists . Conditions also factor in, Tall dry grass with poor or no fire breaks too close to structures with well aged wood shingles, siding and a strong breeze + 1 spark = fire storm no matter what the source of the ignition is... People are pissed off with the noise of illegal fireworks going off at all hours but then they condemn the safe and sane fireworks bought by FAMILIES , mom's and dad's who follow the rules and the map of where you can and can't use legal fireworks. I'm sure it wasn't some mom & dad with their little ones that started this fire, it could be anything, a spark from power lines, a lawn mower hitting a rock, a kid playing with matches, a teen smoking weed, a unattended BBQ, a car repair gone bad, a kitchen fire, perhaps S.K., JazzAzz or Ringo tossing a lit cigarette butt out while driving thru Collinsville ... hmmm.......

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • SKJuly 06, 2014 - 10:22 pm

    I know that myself and none of those other two smoke, or was dumb enough to run a lawn mower in high dry grass that day. It will be interesting to see if they come up with a reason, evidence of a cigarette butt, or a Safe & Sane wrapper. We'll have to wait and see, if anything. I feel real sorry for the good folks out there though, no matter the cause.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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