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Brush fire burns pallet factory south of Sonoma

  • A fire burns a pallet factory south of Sonoma Sunday afternoon. (Beth Schlanker / PD)

Sparks from a tow truck are suspected of triggering a 40-acre brush fire Sunday south of Sonoma that swept through a wooden pallet factory, sending flames towering into the air and causing about $1 million in damage.

The fire started about 1:30 p.m. near Highway 121 and Eighth Street East when sparks from a tow truck pulling a car dolly ignited dry grass along the side of the road, said Ray Mulas, chief of the volunteer Schell-Vista Fire Protection District.

The blaze spread to nearby Sonoma Pacific Co., igniting 40-foot stacks of wooden pallets, numerous outbuildings and detonating a 1,000-gallon propane tank in a loud explosion, Mulas said.

Sonoma Pacific Co. Fire

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“Once it got into the pallets it became a very intense fire fight that was quite difficult,” Mulas said.

No one was injured and no homes burned, he said, but one resident was evacuated as a safety precaution.

Heat from the fire blew out at least one overhead electrical transformer, showering more sparks onto the ground. In all, five structures were destroyed or damaged in the surrounding area and about 10 RVs burned, Mulas said.

At least 10 commercial buildings were spared, he said.

“Fortunately, the wind has died down and they have the weather working in their favor,” said CHP Officer Anna Paulson.

Mulas said as many as 1,000 residents may have been without electrical power.

Witnesses described 70-foot tall flames as the pallet company ignited.

Matthew Nagan, owner of Shellville Grill on nearby Broadway, said he was forced to close his restaurant.

“Oh my God, it's insane,” said Nagan. “The whole back of the building is covered in flames. It's all toast.”

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