A column of black smoke caused residents of East Porterville to stop what they were doing Friday afternoon and watch as a fire destroyed two homes and a couple of other structures on East River Avenue. One person was taken away in an ambulance.
The man taken away in an ambulance, whom the family did not wish to identify, suffered minor scrapes on his arms and was examining himself for burns while paramedics checked his health. Residents said the man was moving motorcycles out of the path of the blaze when it first broke out.
Neighbors reported hearing several loud bangs that might have been propane tanks exploding a couple of minutes after the fire started. Downed electrical wires created another hazard.
Because there was a breeze, the fire spread to a vacant house on an adjacent parcel of land. That house was sold a week ago and it is unknown whether the owner has insurance.
After the fire had been burning for approximately 30 minutes, a man ran up the street, turned up the driveway towards the burning mobile home and dropped to his knees. Residents identified him as the grandson of the man taken away in the ambulance.
Engine 20 from Tulare County arrived on the scene first, closely followed by Engine 71 from Porterville. Because firefighters had limited water they tried to contain the fire as best they could, but ultimately while waiting for more engines and water tenders to arrive the fire got ahead of them, spreading to the second house. East Porterville has no water system.
In total, 10 engines were on the scene, according to Battalion 2 chief Jay Bushrow, including one from Lindsay and another from Pixley. Both houses were lost. The cause of the fire is being investigated.