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Taft Midway Driller - Taft, CA
  • Etna Masonic lodge still smoldering

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  • The inferno that consumed the Evening Star Lodge No. 186 may have been subdued Sunday night, but Etna fire crews will be keeping an eye on the site as the fire continues to smolder within the building's foundation.
    While the cause of the conflagration remains unknown, Etna Fire Department Chief Alan Kramer said it likely originated in the basement and could have been the result of an electrical fire or boiler/furnace malfunction.
    Recalling the day's events, Kramer said the department was dispatched at 11:32 a.m. Sunday and had an engine on scene within 3 minutes.
    "From the time we got there, it was not looking good," Kramer said.
    He noted the Masonic lodge was built with a balloon framing, a popular 19th-century construction technique where long framing studs run continuously from the sill plate to top plate.
    Thanks to old-style framing, Kramer said, "The fire spread extremely rapidly through the walls."
    An Etna engine remained on scene until 10 p.m. Sunday night battling the fire.
    Eyewitness Katie Lyn Branson said, "Part of the building had collapsed by about 5:30 p.m., and they were still fighting the fire rigorously."
    She continued, "Our fire crew did an amazing job."
    However, Kramer noted much of the real danger was not the result of the intense heat.
    "One of the things that made it extremely difficult was the temperature," Kramer said.
    With the climate well below freezing, ice-covered streets created slippery, hazardous conditions for the firefighters.
    Kramer also pointed out that blaze quickly turned to ice, and the crews had to be diligent to not let the lines freeze up.
    As of Monday, the fire was contained, smoldering inside the foundation of the building.
    "I expect it will continue to smolder for some time," Kramer said. He added he doesn't expect it to pose a threat to the neighboring buildings.
    Kramer said he had a couple of his men watching the foundation on Monday, although it was still too dangerous to get inside the foundation to finish off the embers hiding in the debris.
    Instead, Etna Fire will watch and wait for an opportunity for complete extinguishment.
    "We were down picking through the remnants (Monday)," Kramer said. "Most of it's all gone."
    CAL FIRE, Fort Jones Fire Department, Scott Valley Fire District, Yreka Fire Department and South Yreka Fire Department assisted in helping control the blaze.
    "I would like to thank all the adjacent departments who assisted and participated in this operation," Kramer said.
    He continued, "We had tremendous support from the community as well."
    Kramer said two local businesses, Wildwood Crossing and Etna Deli & Pizza, opened their doors to provide the firefighters with food and hot coffee.
    Page 2 of 2 - "That was an immense help," he said, adding a hot cup of coffee can make a difference in that type of situation.

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