Historic Hotel California Dunsmuir damaged by fire

A historic building in Dunsmuir town center is damaged and its residents displaced after a fire burned it down on Sunday October 16.

The California Dunsmuir Hotel’s storage room burned down and the building was damaged by smoke and water after a heater ignited cardboard placed next to it, Dunsmuir Fire Chief Dan Padilla said. Sixteen long-term residents of the hotel had to evacuate.

The fire started minutes after 1 p.m., hotel owner Mark Juarez said. He and a renovation crew were monitoring the property. “I had a meeting in the lobby. We heard the fire alarm go off.”

Juarez and one of his teammates went to a storage room where they put out a “small fire” with a fire extinguisher while another person called the fire department, he said.

A fire burned in a storage room and filled the lobby with smoke at the California Dunsmuir Hotel on Sunday, October 16, 2022.

We got the call at 1:08 p.m., Padilla said. Crews from 13 departments and organizations responded, including the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the City of Dunsmuir, Mount Shasta, Castella, Weed, Lake Shastina and McCloud Fire Departments.

The contractor cut the power while he and his team told people to evacuate the hotel, Juarez said.

A few minutes later, the fire reignited, he said. “We used four extinguishers on the fire.”

Then the fire exploded, Juarez said.

Travel writer and photographer Timothy Hearn of Redding was taking pictures in Dunsmuir town center around 1pm when he smelled smoke.

When he turned around, smoke was billowing from the hotel roof, Hearn said. It looked like the fire had started in the part of the hotel along Pine Street, behind a wall painted with a mural.

A fire burned part of the California Dunsmuir Hotel on Sunday October 16, 2022.

“We were crawling on the ground,” Juarez said. “The smoke was so bad we couldn’t see where we were going.”

Juarez – the only person injured in the blaze – hit his head against a door while trying to crawl out of the building. He’s got a little concussion, he said. His companion picked him up and helped him out.

In the fresh air, he “came to his senses,” he said. He and his team went up to the second floor to make sure everyone was out.

Deputies from the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office and California Highway Patrol officers coordinated traffic downtown as firefighters battled the blaze, Padilla said. Crews brought the fire in the storage room under control, but smoke and water used to fight the fire caused further damage.

The Red Cross is assisting long-term hotel residents who were unable to return to their rooms as of this week, Padilla said.

Now comes the long process of repairing the hotel, Juarez said on Wednesday, October 19. “We have a team that comes from the Bay Area. They will assess” the site and estimate the damage and the costs.

Juarez – who is recovering from his injury and has a mild headache – is unsure how long it will take to repair the damage and get back on track with the hotel’s refurbishment, but said he was “determined to open it soon”.

With the weather getting colder across Siskiyou County, more people are using space heaters, Padilla said. People should be careful using any heater and follow company safety guidelines. This is also a good time to make sure smoke detectors are working properly.

Jessica Skropanic is a reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers science, arts, social issues and entertainment stories. Follow her on Twitter @RS_JSkropanic and on Facebook. Join Jessica in the Get Out! Nor Cal Leisure Facebook Group. To support and sustain this work, please register today. Thanks.

Nicholas E. Crittendon