A day after a seven-alarm fire ripped through a Fairfield neighborhood, leaving five homes uninhabitable and damaging others, displaced residents sifted through the rubble Wednesday and prepared for the work that lies ahead.
Within minutes of being reported as a grass fire along Interstate 80 around 3:40 p.m. Tuesday, swirling winds fanned the flames into a blaze that jumped a sound wall and swept into the Marigold Drive neighborhood off North Texas Street.
Once the smoke cleared, Fairfield Fire Capt. Bobby Silva said officials determined that five homes had been burned -- two demolished -- and were uninhabitable. Red "unsafe" signs marked the front portion of the residences, leaving about a dozen people seeking shelter. On top of the five uninhabitable homes, Silva said officials learned of 10 additional houses on Marigold Drive that had minor damage ranging from holes in roofs and broken windows and doors to water damage.
Crews that remained on scene Tuesday doused hot spots and flare-ups throughout the night, Silva said, noting there were plans to leave another crew in the neighborhood overnight Wednesday, just to be safe.
Jennifer Pamatz was at work when she got the call from her husband saying their home was on fire Tuesday afternoon. Minutes earlier, she had received a call from their alarm company saying one of the home's back doors had been opened, however, when her husband arrived to investigate, he found something much worse.
Pamatz, 25, has lived in the residence less than two years and rushed home as soon as she heard the news. Panic set in, followed by a surreal realization of what was taking place as she was greeted by the sight of hose-strewn streets and billowing smoke.
"You don't know what to think, you just don't imagine this will happen to you," she recalled. "You can't really do anything, you're just outside watching."
The blaze reduced her newly remodeled bedroom to a sopping, smoky mess, collapsing portions of the ceiling and leaving a hole in the roof over the bathroom.
"All our clothes and stuff, we can't use anything," Pamatz said as she walked through the home Wednesday. "We weren't home, but when I told my daughter, she started crying because she was worried about her dolls. I said, 'Vanessa, we can buy you new ones,' she was like, 'I know, but I love them.'"
Pamatz hoped the majority of the damage had been kept to the roof area, rather than the devastation she found when she was allowed back inside.
"I just thought it would be the top, but not like this," she said while glancing around the charred room.
"It hurts," Pamatz said of the loss. "But our neighbors have been really helpful and have been giving us water. Our neighbor from across the street gave us breakfast."
By early afternoon, insurance agents began circling the neighborhood -- particularly congregating in front of homes with boarded-over windows and garage doors.
A disaster recovery team is being established by the city of Fairfield in an effort to aid the neighborhood during the recovery process, a press release said.
Solano County fire investigators were examining the area where the fire started, however, Silva said their findings have not yet been disclosed. Officials are continuing to compile damage estimates, which Silva said ranges from damage at an AT&T storage area and mutual-aid costs to damages to the homes and their contents. Silva said the figure will be "substantial."