Fire

Last Night’s Willits Structure Fire Originated in Home Known to Conduct Illegal Burn Piles

Last night, a structure fire on Willits’s Locust Street damaged two homes and destroyed an accessory dwelling, confirmed Little Lake Fire Chief Chris Wilkes. Both Chief Wilkes and a neighbor of the home told us the fire department has been to the home several times for illegal burn piles in recent months.

Chief Wilkes told us despite the history of illegal burn piles in the backyard of the residence, last night’s fire seems to have originated in the home’s interior and the cause has yet to be determined.

Chief Wilkes said both Little Lake Fire personnel and City of Willits Code Enforcement Officers have been to the residence multiple times regarding illegal controlled burns. He characterized the property as being in shambles.

Neighbor Shannon Turner told us she has called the fire department four times on the neighbor for starting fires in their backyard. She said the owner would light bonfires so big the flames would be as tall as the fence. She added, “I always thought he would burn something down.”

Chief Wilkes said along with Little Lake Fire, Ridgewood Ranch Fire, Brooktrails Fire, and a mutual aid engine from Cal Fire responded to last night’s incident. He said he initially ordered a significant amount of resources because there was a wind blowing to the north that laid flames across the roadway threatening nearby structures.

Initial scanner traffic regarding the incident indicated a seven-year-old child was rescued from the building. This information proved to be wrong, corroborated by Chief Wilkes and neighbor Shannon Turner, the mother of the child who is actually nine-years-old.

Turner told us her husband and son were returning home from a trip to Sacramento last night when they saw the flames in the neighboring home. Turner’s husband acted quickly, grabbed a fire extinguisher, and ran inside. While he was attempting to extinguish the flames, Turner’s son got out of their Subaru, was standing in the driveway, and somehow his presence indicated to someone that he had been rescued from the flames. Turner assured he was not in the home and no rescue was required.

Despite the fact that a child was not rescued from the fire, Chief Wilkes did tell us fire personnel saved several cats from one of the buildings. He said the pet owner was distraught because their cats were locked inside and fire personnel was able to gain access and rescue the cats.

In the spirit of fire prevention, Chief Wilkes reminded Mendocino County residents that keeping vegetation under control around the home can stop a fire’s spread which will save property and lives.

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