Fire fed by windy conditions near Woodlake

April 15, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Today's windy weather played a major factor in the fire causing flames to jump from a mobile home to an historic hotel that was being used by the farm for storage.

There were 70 firefighters from Tulare County Fire, Woodlake and Cal Fire worked together to put out the flames of a large multi-structure fire west of Woodlake.

The fire broke out on Griffith Farms' property first hitting a mobile home that was being used as a laboratory.

"There were some chemicals in there but mostly mechanical testing devices," Allan Lombardi said.

Griffith Farms' technical services manager says he had just backed up the computers inside the laboratory just a couple hours before the fire started.

Tulare County Fire officials say at its hottest point, flames reached nearly 30 feet as the winds spread the fire up the dry brush of Cottonwood Creek and into what used to be the Red Banks Hotel, built in 1915.

The flames threatened a home on the property. Luckily, because of the wind direction, none of the farms' nursery plants were destroyed.

Battalion Chief Mike Green from Tulare County Fire said, "The wind was blowing at about 20 mph in guess and the wind was blowing fortunately away from the nursery area and kept the fire on the north side of the canal bank there."

Griffith Farms Nursery sits on the south border of the canal and contains protected, 4-year-old citrus trees that are the core of its business.

"We have a wide collection of varieties that are very valuable from which we make all the trees that we produce at the nursery," Lombardi said.

Initial estimates of damage cost are at about $250,000. Firefighters are expected to be working throughout the night to put out hot spots and make sure there aren't any more flare ups.


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