Fire destroys the Oakhurst Lodge


Late Thursday morning, firefighters were mopping up and hosing down potential hotspots after a fire broke out shortly after midnight on Thursday morning.

A woman visiting from France told Action News she saw flames on the back side of the building and called 911. When firefighters arrived, the fire had spread throughout the attic and basement of the building -- and at one point caused the roof to collapse.

The Madera County Sheriff's Department helped evacuate 22 people from the 25 room lodge. Those people have been moved to a nearby hotel.

"The fortunate thing is someone quickly noticed the fire and reported it to all the occupants of the buildings, working with the manager and the hotel staff to make sure everyone was out," said Christopherson.

Firefighters said they used so much water fighting the fire, they had to coordinate their efforts with the Hillview Water Company so they wouldn't affect the water supply in Oakhurst.

"Coarsegold is a very old mountain community and we didn't want to draw down any of the areas in the event of any other emergencies -- or cause any damage to the pipes. We worked with the representative to make sure we weren't flowing too much water, and we used the water tenders in place as a buffer so we weren't putting any undue stress on the water system," said Chris Christopherson, Cal Fire Madera County Battalion Chief.

A computer store and architecture firm, down the hill from the Oakhurst Lodge, suffered water damage and are temporarily closed.

The fire could also have an impact on the local economy. Summer is the peak tourism season for the area. Most businesses earn the bulk of their money for the year that carries them over for the year.

Hundreds of thousands of people drive down Highway 41 and head into Yosemite. Tourism officials say the fire at Oakhurst Lodge couldn't come at a worse time, it's an impact to the business owner and the area. Without a building, that means hotel guests will need somewhere to stay and spend.

"We're going to try to place as many people here as we can close by, so hopefully we'll minimize that impact," said Jarrod Lyman, Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau.

Best Western Yosemite Gateway Inn is just down the street from the burned lodge. They've already received calls from guests. The manager says the community really feels for the Oakhurst Lodge owner and hopes they can rebuild soon.

Firefighters say they are still investigating the cause of the fire. The damage is estimated at around $1 million.


Action News report Amanda Venegas contrubuted to this story.

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