Big fire at Paul Evert’s RV Country destroys motor coaches, repair shop

Fire leaves service shop destroyed at Paul Evert's RV Country

A blaze swept though the structure late Tuesday evening, collapsing the roof and causing millions of dollars in damage.
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A blaze swept though the structure late Tuesday evening, collapsing the roof and causing millions of dollars in damage.

A fire that destroyed a large repair shop at Paul Evert’s RV Country in Fresno – as well as a number of high-value recreational vehicles inside the shop – appears to have started in a refrigerator on one of the RVs, the Fresno County Fire Department said Wednesday.

When the blaze broke out inside the building, estimated at about 12,000 square feet, five to eight “Class A” motor homes were parked inside it, according to Cal Fire spokesman Jeremiah Wittwer.

Each of the recreational vehicles lost was valued between $500,000 and $1 million, Wittwer said. Employees were able to pull several trailers out of the shop building to prevent them from being destroyed. They also used the same equipment to move other vehicles away from the building.

Witter said the dealership estimated the total loss, including shop, recreational vehicles and tools, to be in the range of $2 million to $3 million.

Officials from Paul Evert’s RV Country were not available for comment Wednesday.

The fire was spotted shortly before 6 p.m. by a driver on Highway 99 who saw the smoke and alerted employees. The repair shop had closed on Tuesday, but employees were still working at the RV and trailer retailer off Highway 99 near the Central Avenue exit when they were told about the fire.

They tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher, but it had gotten out of control, Wittwer said.

“They did their best, and got out and called 911,” he said. The building was not equipped with sprinklers, he said.

The employees saw that the fire initially was burning on the rear of one of the RVs inside the building that eventually was engulfed. Smoke and flames could be seen for miles.

Inside the building was an auto shop and paint booth. Wittwer said the building was unstable due to the fire damage and was full of hazardous materials such as oil drums and propane tanks.

“Most of the contents in that building are going to be a complete loss,” he said.

A forklift driver for the company, Coalton Marple, said the back shop was ablaze when he arrived. He said there was a large luxury motor home worth $1 million inside the building.

The 19-year-old said he’s worked at Paul Evert’s for almost two years and his brother is an RV detailer there. The fire made Marple, father of a new baby girl, nervous that he might be out of a job.

Security guard Jeremy Dudley, arriving for his 7 p.m. shift, simply said: “There goes the shop.”

Battling the fire was no easy feat, Wittwer said, as limited truck access to the scene and insufficient access to a water supply made it difficult to contain the blaze. Fresno Fire, Fresno County Fire, Selma Fire and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. all responded to the blaze.

Traffic on southbound 99 slowed as motorists watched the blaze. Many shouted, whooped and hollered from their cars as they passed.

There were no reported injuries.

Reporter Jim Guy contributed to the story. Lewis Griswold 559-441-6104; Jessica Johnson: 559-441-6051, @iamjesslj

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