Blaze Scorches Memories

By Brian L. Covert
Tribune Staff Writer

As huge air tankers roared overhead and firefighters worked in the smoky canyons below, survivors of the Camino brush fire Friday embraced each other and thanked God they were alive.

One gathering place was the smoldering ruins of the Lewin property at 3085 Braden Road in Camino.

There, neighbors and local firefighters congregated to offer sympathy about the disaster that had swept through the area like a hurricane a few hours before.

For Mary Minta Lewin, 81, the Camino fire erased 40 years of memories and material possessions. The fire burned most of her property, including antique cars and trucks and storage rooms. Somehow the small house in which she was living was saved, although the blaze burned on all sides and within a few feet of her residence.

Some of her neighbors were not so lucky. In all, seven homes and one mobile home were completely destroyed. Three other houses suffered major damage.

Mrs. Lewin recalled that morning for the group of locals who had assembled near her front porch.

“I got up early because they came down the street and said to evacuate,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it was serious.”

Mrs. Lewin was the recipient of countless bear-hugs as neighbors continued dropping in. “When you stop to think about it, aren’t we lucky?” she said to a neighbor.

Even her son, Jerry Lewin, chief of the Shingle Springs Fire Department, managed to break away from his duties long enough to check up on his family.

Another of Mrs. Lewin’s sons, Zane, showed neighbors through the charred remains of the property. Zane Lewin, 57, and his family were also living on the property at the time of the brush fire.

“It was a real nice place before it burned — shady, lots of flowers,” he said. “This place is so depressing.” His eyes squinted from the smoke that continued filtering through the trees.

Of the living things on the property, only a handful of the cooped-up chickens, pigeons and doves remained. The family cat had not been seen for hours.

“We’ll find out if she has nine lives,” he said.

The neighbors in the area of Meyers and 8 Mile roads provided the Lewins with a communication link as the fire continued burning farther down the hillside.

“I haven’t turned on the radio and the phone won’t work,” he said. “I only know what my neighbors tell me.”

Zane Lewin was among what he called the lucky ones.

“I still got my family,” he said.