A home near the Hotel Leger in Mokelumne Hill went up in flames in the early morning hours of Tuesday.
First responders arrived on scene just after 3:30 a.m. of a structure fire off China Gulch Road that eventually consumed four outbuildings around the residence, Mokelumne Hill Fire Protection District Chief Mike Dell’Orto told the Enterprise Tuesday. The blaze also damaged a neighboring home and power poles and destroyed two vehicles.
Dell’Orto said the residents were able to safely evacuate, and no injuries were reported.
He estimated the home was a little less than 1,000 square feet in size.
Across the street, the siding on a neighboring house was “buckled and blistered” from the heat. The home’s attic caught fire and all of the furniture inside was destroyed.
“It was a very hot fire, burning very clean, and there was very little smoke in the beginning because at least when we showed up, it was too hot to get next to,” Dell’Orto said. “The adjacent house, we were able to attack it inside, but the first house we couldn’t go inside. It was a total ball of flame.”
Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s distribution lines were not damaged by the fire, but the utility did have to replace service lines to the damaged residence Tuesday morning, according to PG&E spokeswoman Brandi Merlo. PG&E also replaced two cross arms and a transformer, she said.
A video taken by Mokelumne Hill resident Jason Currier, who watched the fire from his front yard in an adjacent neighborhood, showed flames and a smoke plume billowing into an otherwise pitch black sky.
Currier said he woke up to loud popping and cracking noises around 3:45 a.m.
“I thought it was people lighting off fireworks,” Currier said. “I looked out my window and could see the glow.”
Currier said the experience was “really intense,” and that at one point, he yelled to his roommate to get a to-go bag together and prepare to evacuate.
“The closest thing I’d come to anything like that was the Butte Fire,” he said.
Dell’Orto said any guess at what the popping and crackling may have been would be speculation.
“There are lots of things that will pop when (exposed to heat) – a can of beans. If there’s something that’s pressurized, and you heat it, it pops,” he said.
Firefighters worked on the blaze until about 7:30 a.m.
Agencies assisting the Mokelumne Hill Fire Protection District included Calaveras Consolidated Fire Protection District, San Andreas Fire Protection District, Central Calaveras Fire and Rescue Protection District, West Point Fire Protection District and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
In all, 10 engines were on the scene, Dell’Orto said.
The cause is under investigation.