Gretchen Weber, a resident of Valley Crest Apartments in Ripon, had just run out to the store for groceries.

But when she returned, she didn’t like what she saw.

“I pulled into the parking lot and I saw smoke coming out of the roof. I thought, ‘That does not look normal to me,’” she said.

Infact, it was far from normal.

Fire heavily damaged one of the Valley Crest buildings — specifically, Building C — Monday evening, leaving seven families and 14 people overall displaced.

The fire started on an upper patio of Building C.

Weber saw the fire before the Ripon Area Fire District (RAFD) arrived.

“I went to the back of the building and this guy was trying to put the fire out. It didn’t look all that bad,” she said. “I saw a hole in the siding [from the heat].”

The fire grew in intensity from there, eventually burning through the roof of Building C.

The RAFD arrived first, and mutual aid was sought from multiple area communities.

Residents were evacuated from all the Valley Crest buildings by Ripon Police.

“We were across the street from the apartment building,” Weber said, adding, “It was crazy; I was shaking because I was afraid it was going to spread to my building.”

Discarded cigarette butts tossed in a plastic container are believed to be the cause of the fire.

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