Fire totals barn

Flames shoot out of a barn that caught fire on Jones Street between 10th and 11th streets in northwest Clovis on Sunday. Five trucks responded to the blaze and authorities said the cause is still under investigation. (CNJ Staff Photo: Loretta Kos)

By Ryan Lengerich

Dorothy Frohnhoner was driving down Clovis’ Jones Street on Sunday afternoon when she saw the smoke.

She rushed in the back entrance of a house next to a burning barn and saw Lawrence and Della Choate collecting their belongings. The Choates’ barn was on fire and, fearing the house would be next, they were trying to salvage as much as they could.

“I grabbed them by their arms and they didn’t want to leave,” Frohnhoner said.

Frohnhoner was able to coax the couple outside and firefighters prevented damage to the home, but their barn and its contents were destroyed in a sensational blaze that hurled smoke over much of Clovis and could be seen for miles.

Clovis Fire Chief Ron Edwards said nobody was injured in the fire on the city’s northwest side.

Five fire trucks responded around 4:15 p.m.

“It was totally engulfed when we got here,” Edwards said.

Edwards said the cause of the fire remained unknown.

The Choates said they also don’t know what started the blaze, but it appeared to have started in the back of the barn.
They said they were inside their house when they smelled smoke and stepped out to see their barn ablaze.

The Choates said a camper trailer, a pontoon boat and 1952 Plymouth were among the items in the barn.

Della Choate said full containers of gasoline for the boat were inside the barn along with propane tanks on the camper trailer that may have exploded as the fire burned.

Firefighters sprayed the south side of the Choates’ house with water, keeping it from catching fire. Spitting flames, however, damaged a roof on a house to the north before firefighters were able to put it out and prevent further damage.

Much of Jones Street in the area was filled with running water from firefighters’ hoses and a brisk wind carried smoke in and above neighboring houses. Traffic in the area was stopped with onlookers and about 40 neighbors and passersby watched from the street for more than an hour as the structure burned.

Edwards said the fire was contained about an hour after crews arrived.

As the barn burned, witnesses said a man they could not identify helped move vehicles parked in front of the barn. They said he saved one truck just as flames approached it.

The Choates agreed they would not be rebuilding the barn they said was built about 20 years ago.

“It would be too much work to rebuild it,” Lawrence Choate said.