“It exploded! It’s totally engulfed in flames!” Terrified witness films numerous explosions during Burney barn fire

Firefighters had to return to the scene of a destructive barn and vegetation fire at around 2 a.m., after a pair of early morning delivery drivers spotted flames billowing high above the Black Ranch area. Trevor Montgomery/SCNS photo

Original Story:

BURNEY, Calif. — Although firefighters made quick work of a vegetation fire that was sparked by a barn fire that erupted on a large and rural property in the Black Ranch area just outside the small Intermountain area town of Burney, the barn quickly burned to the ground, with nothing left afterward but smoldering timber and framing.

A boat and car parked inside the barn, along with a travel trailer and at least one outbuilding located just outside the barn were destroyed or damaged by the blaze, and one of the homeowners was hospitalized after collapsing while trying to extinguish the massive and fast-moving fire with nothing more than buckets of water.


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Firefighters from stations around the Intermountain area and as far away as Susanville and Redding were alerted to the fire at around 1:30 p.m., this afternoon, Thursday, July 1. The 911 caller reported that a barn was on fire and that the flames were beginning to spread to nearby vegetation in the 22000 block of Widgeon Court, east of Vedder Road and north of Black Ranch Road. They also reported hearing multiple explosions emanating from within and adjacent the barn, where a large propane canister, fuel tank and other combustibles were located.

Due to the ongoing heatwave, along with current weather and wind conditions and reported explosions, a full wildland response was immediately requested. In addition to numerous engine companies being dispatched, multiple water tenders, dozers, hand crews, and other specialized apparatus were requested. Several spotter planes, air tankers and other forms of firefighting air support were also notified to prepare for launch to the area.

Multiple explosions were heard during a massive blaze that destroyed a large, two-story barn and all its contents, including a car and boat, in Burney this afternoon. The fire soon spread to nearby vegetation, burning about an acre and the intense heat of the fire also damaged a travel trailer parked near the destroyed barn. Kendra Roberson Marke photo

One witness, Kendra Roberson Marke, who resides next door to the property, later told SCNS she began filming the fire within moments of hearing what she described as “several loud explosions” that rocked her adjacent home.

“Oh my God! The house next door to me is on fire,” the breathless and terrified woman is heard crying out on one of five videos she later posted to social media. Within moments, the fire is seen expanding from flames pouring from the roof, to the entire structure being fully engulfed and beyond any chance of being saved.

“It exploded! It’s totally engulfed in flames,” she is heard exclaiming, even as several more loud explosions are heard rocking the area – at least five of which can be heard occurring in rapid succession, within a 30-second timespan.

“I can’t believe it! Unbelievable,” she continued, just as the first firefighters began to arrive at the scene and reported finding a fully-involved structure fire with explosions continuing to emanate from within the blazing barn. They also soon advised that power lines were down in the area.


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As firefighters were still beginning to arrive at the location and before they were set up and prepared to begin battling the fire one of the homeowners was seen frantically attempting to extinguish the growing blaze with buckets of water, as his wife pleaded with him to get out of and away from the burning barn.

Moments later, the man suffered an unspecified medical crisis and “passed out” according to firefighters, who immediately began evaluating and treating the unconscious man and requested an ambulance to the scene. The victim was later transported to Mayers in Fall River with his wife on board the ambulance with him.

Several air tankers and firefighting helicopters raced to the scene of today’s barn and vegetation fire. Kendra Roberson Marke photo

At around 2 p.m., officials at the scene reported that all forward progress on the fire had been halted, with minimal spread to area vegetation. They later reported that about one acre of vegetation had been consumed by the destructive blaze and that they would be remaining on scene for several hours conducting overhaul and mop up operations.

Over the next few hours, several new small spot fires, believed to have been caused by smoldering embers sent soaring into the sky during the initial fire, were reported; but all were quickly extinguished. Two of the fires were described as 12’x12′ and 25’x25′ spots, while at least two additional smaller spot fires were also reported.

At least one of those fires, which began burning across Burney Creek to the south of the property at around 5:30 p.m., was put out by area residents who raced to the scene with hand tools and fire extinguishers after smoke was seen rising from the forest behind their homes.

Several hours later the homeowner had been released and he and his wife were back home and seen surveying the still smoldering ruins of their barn and other damage to their property while talking with fire officials. He later reportedly told his neighbors the fire was caused by the property’s water pump and that his home was left without electricity due to the downed and damaged power lines. Community members quickly began offering their freezers, generators, and other assistance to the grateful family – left bewildered by the speed and ferocity in which the barn was consumed.

A barn and all its contents were leveled during today’s swift-moving barn fire. Kendra Roberson Marke photo

According to neighbors, the homeowner’s service dog, “Chief Charlie”, a golden retriever, had not been seen since the fire and remained unaccounted for as of 6 p.m. However; SCNS received an excited update from neighbor Kim Beach just moments before the publication of this article that the missing service dog had just been located.

“The pup is okay!”, Beach said in her update; describing the Chief as “in shock and so distraught,” but otherwise OK.

Saying she was saddened that her neighbors lost their garage and barn, Marke later told SCNS she was grateful for the firefighters’ quick response and valiant suppression efforts, in spite of the oppressive and ongoing heatwave and terrible firefighting conditions.

“Thank you so much for responding quickly and for protecting my house and all the other homes and property your efforts saved from being destroyed by today’s fire,” she said.

Click any image to open full-size gallery.

Kendra Roberson Marke photos

Contact the writer: [email protected]

Trevor Montgomery, 49, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source (RCNS) and Shasta County News Source (SCNS).

Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County-based newspapers Valley News, Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; the Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County; and Mountain Echo in Shasta County. He is also a regular contributor to Thin Blue Line TV and Law Enforcement News Network and has had his stories featured on news stations throughout the Southern California and North State regions.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.