Firefighers battle pair of blazes in Sonora area

Union Democrat staff /

Fire crews extinguished a large fire at the Sierra Pacific Industries lumber mill in Standard at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

The fire burned one log deck, according to Cal Fire Battalion Chief Keven Patton.

The SPI mill was not closed during the fire and logging trucks continued to arrive and unload throughout the incident, Patton said.

Most, if not all, of the logs are salvageable, he added.

The fire was one of two that broke out Wednesday just a few miles apart in a relatively short period.

The SPI fire and the second fire off the Highway 108 bypass, between Lime Kiln and Old Wards Ferry roads, were believed to be unrelated, Patton said.

The SPI fire was reported at 11:10 a.m. on a log "deck," or pile.

Most, if not all the logs, some more than 2 feet in diameter, had been recovered from the Rim Fire area.

The response team included engines and crews from Cal Fire, Tuolumne County Fire Department and Baseline Conservation Camp crews.

Columbia Cal Fire Air-Attack base provided water-dropping helicopters and fire retardant from airplanes, Patton said.

Fire investigators have not declared a cause.

In what Patton called a "fortunate" series of events, an extra retardant-filled Cal Fire airplane responding to the mill fire was immediately diverted to a Lime Kiln Road fire.

That fire was reported about noon.

It appeared to have started in the area of a large homeless encampment. The cause was undetermined Wednesday afternoon.

Sonora Police Investigator Jerry McCaig and Officer Chris Rogers were at the scene investigating the fire's origin, but declined to comment citing department policy.

At its peak, the fire prompted California Highway Patrol to close two lanes of westbound Highway 108 to traffic.

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