Flames destroy an old hotel in Porterville

Huge amounts of flame could be seen shooting from the building at Main Street and Olive Avenue in Porterville.
December 26, 2013 6:00:12 AM PST
An investigation is underway into a fire that destroyed a three-story building in Porterville. The fire broke out around 1:30 a.m. Thursday.

Flame could be seen shooting from the building at Main Street and Olive Avenue in Porterville. There is still no word on what sparked the overnight fire. But crews spent much of the Thursday tearing down a wall on the building so they could reopen one of the city's busiest intersections.

All fire fighters could do to contain the fire was douse the flames with water from the outside.

"It's a fairly old building and it is unreinforced masonry. Those are prone to collapse from structure fire. We've certainly seen that here. Early collapse of the second floor walls around the perimeter," Porterville Fire Chief Glenn I Irish said.

Because the building is so old no one was allowed inside. The old hotel sat empty for years boarded up to keep transients out.

By the time the sun came up Thursday dozens of South Valley residents showed up to snap pictured and watch the fire crew's work.

Fearing for more collapse onto the usually busy streets below heavy equipment was brought in so crews could begin knocking the walls down. The hotel was already slated to be torn down by the city in the coming months.

Neighboring businesses also suffered some damage from the collapsed walls, water and smoke.

Bill horst also spent his morning out at the fire scene. Horst is a board member at the Porterville Historical Museum. He said the hotel was built when the railroad first expanded through the town.

"The exact date I'm not sure of, but in the early 1890's they built a two story hotel that covered about two thirds of the lot to the rear. That was for executives on the railroad and individuals who were changing shifts on the train," Horst said.

Flames burned through the roof of the Porterville Hotel before fire crews responded. Darrell Blasingame and his wife remember the hotel well. He did air duct work on the building in the 1980s.

"It was in bad shape back then. They were doing minimal work because it was going to be housing for low income, seniors and such. It's time for it to come down," Darrell Blasingame said.

Crews began knocking down the second and third story walls of the building to prevent further collapse into the street. Horst says the third story of the hotel wasn't added until 1927.

"I suspect that at that time the elevator was added. And now we see the end of it," Horst said.

The end which many knew needed to come.

It will take some time for crews to figure out exactly what sparked the fire as they were not able to get into the building while it burned.


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