Three fires since last Friday have added to one of the busiest seasons on record in California. Further complicating staffing and resources available to local firefighters is the number of catastrophic wildfires burning elsewhere in California, currently in the Southland. However, the call for assistance in other parts of California and in the wildland areas of Tulare County has been nearly nonstop since the Dinely Fire in Three Rivers in early June.
With the onset of colder weather, local calls tend to change from wildland incidents to, more commonly, structure fires.
Lazy J Ranch Motel— At 7:45 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 1, firefighters responded to one of the rooms on fire at the Lazy J Ranch Motel at the west entrance to Three Rivers. According to the incident report, a plastic wrapper on a mattress ignited because it was too close to a heater.
The blaze was extinguished before it could spread to other nearby structures. Property damage was estimated at $20,000.
Dead Rat Saloon— Another fire started in the pre-dawn hours of Monday, Dec. 4 inside the Dead Rat Saloon, located in Redbanks, west of Woodlake. A video surveillance camera, activated when a window was broken, reportedly shows a suspect throwing an incendiary device that started the fire.
No suspects have been arrested in that intentionally caused blaze. Damages were estimated at $2,000.
Lemon Cove— On Tuesday, Dec. 5, a fire was reported in a home on Pogue Street, just north of Sierra Drive, in Lemon Cove. A Lemon Cove resident along Sierra Drive reported being awakened by the sound of a loud explosion at about 3 a.m.
The blaze turned out to be in an unoccupied dwelling; a carport on the property was also destroyed. According to nearby residents, the property has had several recent reports of vagrants in the vicinity.
The Tulare County Fire Department’s incident report stated that the home and its contents were badly burned so the cause of the blaze could not immediately be determined and remains under investigation.
The property damage was estimated at $90,000.
“We haven’t had to downsize staffing at any of our stations,” said Charlie Norman, Tulare County Fire Chief. “But this new normal is pretty exhausting.”