One person dead in Three Rivers restaurant fire

THREE RIVERS, Calif.

The fire started around 3:30 p.m. Friday afternoon at the Sequoia Cider Mill restaurant along Highway 198 in Three Rivers.

The restaurant was open at the time. Witnesses say they heard an explosion, and then saw flames. As for the young victim, fire crews believe he had almost made it out before he died.

Cindy Skeen, a witness, said, "It was just billowing, like billowing out, and then a short time later, you could see the flames shoot through here."

Cindy Skeen lives in Three Rivers and was working at her store just up the street when her sister called and told her what had happened. "My sister had just come back from the river and said they heard this big explosion."

By the time Skeen arrived, Tulare County firefighters were already there. Firefighters rushed inside to search for a 13-year-old boy.

Battalion chief Doug Hicks with Tulare County Fire said, "When we got on scene, we had heavy fire showing in the attack and inside the building. Some of the occupants were out and they said they had a child unaccounted for."

Within ten minutes, they found the teen near a window in a back storage area. Chief Hicks said, "It appeared that maybe he was trying to get to a window to get out, but the window was not open, and he was on the floor, inside the room."

Rescue crews got the boy out, but couldn't revive him.

Neighbor Juliet Delcon, who used to own the Cider Mill Restaurant, said all she could do was cry. "It was devastating to see that, and we didn't know the child had died. There's no words to explain."

Family members were too upset to speak on camera, but said the boy was a relative of the owners.

As for the restaurant, people who live in the area say it was a Three Rivers staple and has been around for close to 100 years.

Fire officials say because of the building's old construction, there was little they could do to save it.

About 35 firefighters responded to the blaze, including Cal Fire. They were on hand in case the fire spread to the nearby wild land area.

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