What started as a report of smoke grew to a major blaze that leveled a commercial storage building, threatened propane tanks and cut off electrical power to a section of Hughson on Saturday night.
Eight area fire departments joined in fighting the fire, which closed Santa Fe Avenue between Hatch and Tully roads for hours, said Ceres Fire Department Battalion Chief Mike Lillie. That included water tenders sent from the Keyes, Turlock Rural, Westport and Oakdale departments, needed because the building was more than 1,000 feet from the nearest hydrant, Lillie said.
Hughson firefighters first responded to the call at 7:21 p.m. and found a small fire in a mostly empty storage building on Santa Fe Avenue at Tully Road. Hindered by the lack of water, however, they were unable to stop its spread, he said.
The fire leveled the commercial building, which was rented by Clark’s Septic Service, Lillie said. Behind the building were stacks of railroad ties, which sent flames soaring into the night sky against dark clouds of smoke. Also in the area were propane tanks, which did not explode, but pressure valves popped, Lillie said.
Three transformers on nearby power poles did explode, however, and Turlock Irrigation District high-voltage lines came down, Lillie said. “TID had to cut off the whole grid (in downtown Hughson) for a short period,” he said.
No estimate of damage or tentative cause was available.