Wind-whipped fire claims two Chester homes

M. Kate West ChesterFire
Chester Editor


Chester skies were ablaze in the dark hours of Saturday, Dec. 3, after a garage fire at 259 First Ave. quickly spread next door to the residence at 265 First Ave. By the time it was over, the fire had left two families homeless.

“Chester Fire Rescue received the call at 1:28 a.m. and when I arrived on scene at 1:35 a.m. the two structures were pretty well involved. The winds were also whipping the fire toward a third residence at 271 First Ave.,” Assistant Fire Chief Nick Dawson said.

He said upon his arrival he was greeted by Plumas County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Sgt. Ian James, the first to arrive on scene.

In addition to the two structure fires, emergency responders were also dealing with multiple vehicle fires and downed power lines.

He said the structures were going up so fast that the roofs were coming down too quickly, another safety factor that precluded the firefighters from entering the structures.

“We had downed power lines everywhere and couldn’t enter the structures so we worked hand lines. We also had the ladder truck distributing a water curtain between the residences at 265 and 271 First Ave.,” Dawson said.

Thanks to the water curtain, the residence at 271 First Ave. survived with damage limited to burnt power lines and scorched paint.

Almanor West Fire responded to the scene under what Dawson termed their “automatic aid” agreement.

Fire personnel and equipment from the Peninsula and Hamilton Branch fire districts and CalFire provided mutual aid.

A backhoe from Chester Public Utility District was also used to pull apart the fire debris.

Personnel from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. arrived on scene to cut the power sources at 3:15 a.m.

Chester Fire and Rescue personnel completed their mop-up procedures and departed the scene at 6 a.m.

As to the cause of the fire Dawson said, “Because the property at 259 First Ave. was so totaled there is no sure way to tell how it started. We are classifying it as ‘undetermined but not suspicious in nature.’”

Two families with children lost their homes. Dawson said they stayed with local family and friends the first evening. Red Cross workers later contacted the families to make additional arrangements to care for them.

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