$460K loss after fire at Haven Packing in Sultana

May 14, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Tense moments for home owners in Sultana, as fire crews worked to keep their homes from burning to the ground. 50 tons of cardboard boxes and wooden pallets burst into flames on Tuesday night. It happened at Haven Packing, off Avenue 416 and Perkins in Sultana.

It took 30 fire firefighters about an hour and a half to contain the fire, but they spent even more time doing what they call "overhaul," which is when crews work to break apart the piles of burned cardboard to ensure they don't ignite again.

John Crivello with Tulare County Fire said, "It started out as palletized good, but as it burns down it becomes deep seeded piles so it's smoldering it's not complete combustion, we have to literally break it apart to hose down each individual box, very labor intensive."

Crews were able to spare the homes located just behind the Haven Packing property, but one shed burned. To 83-year-old Kitty Chesmore, that shed was much more than storage.

Kitty Chesmore tells Action News, she doesn't remember quite everything that was stored in her backyard shed, but she does remember the important things. "My husband had kimonos in there from Japan that he had brought home, just a little bit of everything in that trunk."

Chesmore divides her time between caring for her home and working at Walmart. She tells us, she heard her name over the loudspeaker, just as the fire broke out. "Minding my own business when they paged me, come on and go home your house is on fire." Kitty's home was one of seven that crews were able to spare.

Fire crews say the pummels of thick, pungent smoke that hovered over the Sultana neighborhood may have bothered some of it's residents.

John Crivello said, "There's no toxic chemicals involved, no plastics, there's cardboards, it's noxious it's not rising up, residents should keep doors and windows closed."

As for Kitty, she says she feels lucky that her home and her family were spared.

Workers at Haven Packing say it's bad timing. Everything that burned was materials they needed for the upcoming produce season, valued at around $460,000. The cause of the fire is under investigation, but crews are looking into unconfirmed reports of kids seen leaving the property after the fire broke out.


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