Fairfield grad to rebuild after monster fire devours home

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

Tim Gilliam could see the flames race closer to his Lake Tahoe home through the rear-view mirror of his car as he drove from the area in a frenzy.

Minutes earlier that Sunday, the Fairfield High School graduate and his wife realized the Angora fire was about to devour their permanent residence in the Tahoe Paradise subdivision.

Gilliam was in his garden when he smelled smoke. He went inside for a moment, then noticed the skys orange hue and all the dark smoke. He ran outside to find 200-foot flames at the end of his street, about 300 yards away.

'It is the closest thing Ive seen to hell on earth,' said Gilliam, who is staying with his father in Fairfield. 'It was the most amazing thing Ive ever seen in my life. It was like a monster coming at you, eating everything in its way.'

As the Gilliams raced inside to collect their two dogs and five cats, they could feel the heat and hear trees cracking. He described the engulfing sound as cannons being shot and trees exploding.

There was only time to get out as quickly as they could.

'We didnt have time to grab papers, pictures, nothing. We lost everything,' he said. 'All we have is the clothes on our backs.'

Gilliam left behind his 23-foot boat and a Mazda Miata, which his friend told him is now a frame and mass of molten metal. His house, Gilliam added, is a pile of ashes.

'The winds were about 30 to 40 mph on Sunday and racing down the ridge,' he said. 'That fire was eating everything in its path.'

Gilliam, a director of medical imaging at Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe, said he was most impressed with the police and fire department, which came immediately to evacuate the neighborhood.

'Theyre heroes, theres no better words,' Gilliam said as he began to cry. 'They were laying their lives on the job for us. Theyre heroes.'

The subdivision consists of 40 homes. Gilliam said only five remain.

The fire continued to move Tuesday as unexpected winds increased, sparking sporadic fires beyond the fireline. The Tallac Village Development in South Lake Tahoe was evacuated.

So far, more than 2,700 acres and more than 200 homes have been engulfed by the fire. As of late Tuesday, the fire was almost 40 percent contained.

Although he plans to drive back to Lake Tahoe today to see what is left of his home, Gilliam intends to move forward.

'Im not going to let this fire beat me,' said Gilliam, who will stay at a friends house in the area. 'Im going back to rebuild, and were going to make it through. Its time to start over.'