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Sonoma factory fire losses could hit $2 million

  • Keith McCaffrey, right, shows client Bonnie Bekker the remains of a truck she stored at McCaffrey R.V. Storage in Sonoma on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. (JOHN BURGESS/ PD)

Damage from a massive fire that ripped through a pallet company and RV storage facility in southern Sonoma on Sunday is expected to approach $2 million, making it one of the worst commercial blazes in county history.

As firefighters took stock of the losses Monday, finger-pointing emerged over whether opportunities were missed to reduce the risk of such a conflagration.

More than 180 firefighters and about 60 fire engines and water trucks from four counties responded to the Sunday afternoon blaze, which consumed stacks of pallets at the Sonoma Pacific Co. on Highway 121 and destroyed or damaged 26 recreational vehicles at an adjacent storage facility.

Sonoma Fire Aftermath

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“It was a firefight like I don't think any of these guys will see again in a long time. It was the biggest in my 42 years,” said Schell-Vista Fire Chief Ray Mulas.

Sunday's fire also was one of the costliest. The initial $1 million in estimated losses was expected to grow closer to $2 million, once a more detailed account of the damage was made, Mulas said.

Acrid smoke still lifted Monday from the charred ground at the pallet company, where work was stopped so that employees could assess the damage. Flames racing along the outer edges of the 7-acre facility Sunday devoured pallets stacked more than 25-feet-high with the swiftness of campfire kindling, melted 53-foot tractor-trailers and destroyed two large bays where pallets were stored. Flames also ignited a 1,000-gallon propane tank, causing it to explode.

The company's main plant and offices, however, were spared, creating hope that work could resume as early as today. Sonoma Pacific, which was founded in 1972, has 35 full-time employees and annual sales of about $5.5 million, according to Jeremy Foutch, president of the pallet division.

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