By Larry Judkins
Glenn County Observer
Shortly before dawn on Thursday, emergency dispatchers began receiving reports of a “barn fire” along Highway 99 between County Roads 8 and 9.
Orland Fire Chief Justin Chaney was among the first – if not the very first – emergency responders on the scene.
He immediately provided the exact location of the fire: Highway 99 at County Road 8.
Even more specifically, the fire was burning at the southeast corner of Highway 99 and County Road 8, at what many Orland area residents call the “Skidmore Compound.”
Indeed, on multiple occasions, emergency responders could be heard on the law enforcement and firefighter channels of the police scanner, making references to the “Skidmore Compound.’
For unknown reasons, many members of the Skidmore family take offense at this term.
“Compound,” however, is not a pejorative. It simply refers to a property with multiple residences that is isolated from other properties by natural barriers (bodies of water, forests, rough terrain, etc.) and/or artificial barriers (fences, walls, canals, etc.).
Anyway, at about 6:38 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 27, emergency responders began to arrive at the Skidmore property.
It was quickly realized that the structure that was burning was not a barn, but a shop, and it was fully involved.
Responders also commented that numerous old vehicles were also burning.
Almost immediately upon his arrival, Chief Chaney requested the Corning fire dispatcher to ask the Capay, Artois, and Willows Fire Departments come to the scene as part of their automatic response agreement.
A short time later, mutual aid requests were also made of some area fire departments, including the Hamilton City Fire Department.
And a little later still, the Ord Bend Fire Department was asked to stage at the Orland Fire Station, because all of Orland’s units were at the Skidmore fire and someone may be needed to respond if there were additional emergencies elsewhere in Orland’s jurisdiction.
For a moment, responders were not certain that everyone on the property had been evacuated, but it was soon determined that everyone was out of the buildings and accounted for.
At the Skidmore property, power poles had caught fire and power lines were arcing, causing spot fires in the area.
PG&E was contacted and soon arrived at the scene.
The lines were deactivated.
By about this time, the sun was up and a large cloud of smoke could be seen over Orland and stretching to the south.
Within an hour or two, firefighters gradually began to be released from the scene; for example, at about 10 a.m., the Artois Fire Department was released, and at about 10:15 a.m., the Capay Fire Department was released.
At about 11:50 a.m., Orland firefighters were released from the scene.
Chief Chaney said he expected fires to rekindle, but he planned to return to the scene periodically to check conditions out.
And indeed, he did return to the scene in the early afternoon to do some “mopping up.”
A little later in the afternoon, he returned to the firehouse, where he was asked if it was known what caused the fire.
He replied that the official cause was “undetermined,” and it probably always would be.
He said that he and Hamilton City Fire Chief Dan James, a fire investigator, looked things over, but everything was so thoroughly burned that the actual cause would probably never be known with certainty.