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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Oxnard Fire Forces Evacuation of Motel Guests

May 14, 2000|GINA PICCALO and HOLLY J. WOLCOTT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

OXNARD — A fire early Saturday destroyed six large trailers loaded with donated clothing and forced the evacuation of two dozen guests at the Wagon Wheel Motor Inn, authorities said.

The blaze began shortly after 1 a.m. in the 2700 block of Buckaroo Avenue and took 30 firefighters more than two hours to douse, said Mike O'Malia, a battalion chief for the Oxnard Fire Department.

Damage to the trailers, owned by Goodwill Industries, topped $120,000, authorities said. The donated contents--clothing and other goods--were to be sold in Goodwill stores and were a total loss, fire officials said.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation Saturday night. Fire officials, however, are certain the blaze was intentionally set because the fire began inside several of the trailers at the same time, O'Malia said.

The trailers were parked in a pool supply company parking lot next to the motel.

The fire was spotted by motel guest Hal Newell, who saw flames lapping at eucalyptus trees near his room and smoke billowing from the trailers. Newell ran to the front desk and alerted a clerk, who called the Fire Department.

After firefighters arrived, about 20 of the 45 guests were evacuated from the 83-room motel because of heavy smoke moving through the five-acre property. The motel, however, incurred no damage, authorities said.

City firefighter Aaron Baker, 25, suffered a sprained wrist and back and cuts to his arm when he fell from a ladder that collapsed, fire officials said. He was recovering at home and is expected to return to work in about a week, O'Malia said.

Many of the evacuated guests spent the night in the motel lobby, manager Anna Slomka said.

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