Saturday, 18 May 2024

Recovery center loses building to early morning fire

MIDDLETOWN – An alcohol and drug recovery center suffered a loss early Thursday morning when a fire destroyed one of its buildings.


A small residential unit caught fire at Hilltop Recovery, located in the hills above Middletown in the former McKinley Camp, according to South Lake County Fire Protection District Fire Marshal Dave Miinch.


Lori Carter-Runyon, the center's executive director, did not return a call seeking comment.


The fire broke out about 2:19 a.m. in the guest residence, which was vacant and being remodeled, said Miinch.


“It was fully involved by the time the fire department got there,” he said.


The 45 residents of the center were evacuated to a safe zone, and so no one was in danger or injured, said Miinch.


Fifteen fire personnel from South Lake County Fire Protection District and Cal Fire responded, said Miinch, bringing with them a total of three engines, one water tender, a fire prevention officer and a battalion chief.


“The fire was essentially contained to the structure with a small amount of vegetation that had burned,” he said.


Miinch credited Hilltop Recovery with putting a “tremendous amount” of work into clearing defensible space around its buildings, cutting and raking back vegetation by at least 100 feet, which helped prevent the fire from spreading.


The building was a complete loss, said Miinch, with damage estimated at $20,000.


The cause of the fire is still under investigation, said Miinch.


He said the compound was built in the 1940s and used until the 1960s, when it was closed for a long period of time before coming back into use.


It's been a particularly busy fire season for the fire district, said Miinch.


“There has been more fire activity this year, in 2008, than there has ever been in previous years,” he said.


The areas seeing most activity are Cobb and Loch Lomond, he said.


There are many contributing factors, but Miinch said dry conditions don't help.


“We've probably been getting a structure fire every other week in the Cobb area the last month and a half,” he said.


Fires in other parts of the county also have kept firefighters on the run, including a fire along Soda Bay Road Thursday evening and a small fire near Lakeport earlier that afternoon.


Cal Fire also was still on scene at the location of a fire on Highway 20 at Highway 16, where a fire broke out at around 1 p.m. Wednesday, according to Battalion Chief Redhawk Palleson.


That fire – the cause of which also is still under investigation – burned 50 acres along the north side of Highway 20, said Palleson.


He said two engines and a couple of hand crews were still mopping up on Thursday afternoon.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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