The fire began at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday morning at Charlie's Bar and Grill on north Main Street in Porterville. At least two explosions could be heard as the fire erupted.
Mary McClure along with her husband, Clint, and their son Charlie, owned Charlie's Bar and Grill for almost 30 years, from the early 1980's until when they sold the establishment in 2013. The establishment was named after Mary's and Clint's son, Charlie.
“I've been getting all morning on it,” Mary said. “Everybody in Porterville is calling. My phone's been ringing off the hook this morning.
“A lot of people got married out there. A lot of friends were made out there. It was a nice place. A lot of memories there. It's a sad day.”
McClure's husband died on July 4, 2013 about 30 days after the McClure's sold the establishment. Clint went into the hospital the day after the establishment was sold.
Mary said she was told by the current owner they were set to re-open the establishment as a Mexican restaurant before the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amber Matlock, who lives with her husband Jason Matlock about 100 yards from Charlie's behind the establishment, said from their house they could literally feel the fire.
“You could feel the flames on your face all the way over here,” she said. “It was hot. It was like a raging bon fire.”
As far as how close the fire was, Matlock said, “Close enough to be nervous. I'm glad they were able to contain it. I was worried with all the brush, but they kept it contained.”
Matlock said her husband told her Charlie's was on fire. “It had been burning for a little bit,” said Matlock.
Then she said she heard two explosions. “A smaller one and another that pretty much rattled your bones,” she said. “Flames were burning all over the place. The back caught on fire and it was burning all over the place.”
Matlock said she had also heard the establishment had been remodeled and said it's obviously too bad since the establishment could have continued as a nice restaurant and event venue.
“A lot of people had a lot of memories at that place,” Matlock said. “It's really sad. It's been a bad year.”
The call went out to the Tulare County Fire Department on Wednesday morning, as Charlie's Bar and Grill is within their jurisdiction, but the Porterville Fire Department (PFD) were the first on scene. PFD fire fighters began soaking the flames with water, while Tulare County Fire personnel rushed to the scene.
At the height of the fire, two ladder trucks were being used to extinguish the flames from above.
“We responded to the report of a commercial fire at Charlie's,” said Captain Joanne Bear with the Tulare County Fire Department. “We received mutual aid from Porterville City who were first on scene. Upon arrival, units found smoke coming from the building and went into what we call an “attentive attack” so they went in a direct attack to the fire. They have the fire knocked down and the cause of the fire is under investigation. I do not know the extent of damage at this time and no injuries have been reported.”
Wednesday morning's fire at Charlie's Bar and Grill is the second major fire that the City of Porterville has seen this year. The Porterville City Library Fire struck earlier this year in February, completely destroying the historical building and taking the lives of two of Porterville's firemen. Although no injuries were sustained during the fire at Charlie's Bar and Grill, the building was virtually destroyed by the blaze. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.