Friday, January 27, 2023

Willits Structure Fire Destroys Two Apartments— Firefighters Rescue Tenant Trapped by Flames— Caused by Kitchen Stove Mishap

Little Lake Firefighters dousing the apartment complex [Pictures provided by Brandon Lawson]

The fire at the Oak Glenn Apartment in Willits has left two apartments destroyed, the tenants displaced, and the Red Cross providing support as they recover, Little Lake Fire Chief Bill Carter told us yesterday afternoon.

Chief Carter said the initial call-out around nine in the morning resulted in a “ton of resources” deploying out of concern the fire could have “spread throughout the entire apartment complex.”

The tranquil apartment complex disrupted with flames

When he got on the scene, Chief Carter said the fire was “ripping” through the first and second story and making its way into the attic space. 

A tenant was trapped by the flames on a balcony and firefighters were able to rescue her. She burned her hands on a hot railing during the process, but later declined medical attention, Cheif Carter explained. The tenant that resided where the fire originated experienced “heat injuries” but also declined medical attention. 

Firefighters were successful in fighting back the flames before they spread via the attic space into adjoining flats. 

The burn-scarred structure [Picture provided by Brandon Lawson]

The Red Cross has been actively providing support to the tenants displaced due to the fire.

Chief Carter said intelligence gathered on the scene indicated the fire was the result of a stove-top accident. The reporting party told investigators he had been deep frying earlier in the morning and somehow a flame flared up on the stovetop. Not having access to a fire extinguisher, the tenant attempted to smother the flames with a blanket to no avail. 

As to lessons that can be learned from the fire, Chief Carter recommends that every homeowner keep a high-quality fire extinguisher within arms reach of their stove. 

The agencies that converged to combat yesterday’s apartment fire included Leggett Fire, Laytonville Fire, Brooktrails Fire, Ridgewood Ranch Fire, Redwood Valley Fire, and CALFIRE. Willits Police Department and the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office also assisted in the incident. 

A GoFundMe is circulating on social media for one of the families displaced by the fire. Donate if you can.


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  1. Always keep a lid to cover any pan of oil you cook, the lid must fit the pan. Turn off the stove. This is the quickest way to put out a grease fire. A fire extinguisher is only needed if fire escapes the pan. Do not touch the pan, it may spill and spread the fire. If you cook much with oil practice in the back yard by heating oil until on BBQ until it ignites. Turkey pots fill the burn wards with back yard cooks from flare ups. Water and hot oil do not mix. Watch some Youtube for a quick lesson.Or learn a new word, “debridement” as they scrub dead flesh off your body.

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFever
I like to think of myself as a journalist for the everyman. Journalism has become a craft practiced largely by the urban elite. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at if you know a story that needs to be told.

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