Historic Hotel California Dunsmuir damaged in fire

Jessica Skropanic
Redding Record Searchlight
Dunsmuir's downtown area is a designated historic district.

A historic downtown Dunsmuir building is damaged and its residents displaced after a fire scorched it on Sunday, Oct. 16.

The Hotel California Dunsmuir's storage room burned and the building sustained damage from smoke and water after a heater ignited some cardboard placed next to it, Dunsmuir Fire Chief Dan Padilla said. Sixteen people who were long-term residents at the hotel had to evacuate.

The fire started a few minutes after 1 p.m., the hotel's owner Mark Juarez said. He and a renovation crew were looking over the property. "I was having a meeting in the lobby. We heard the fire alarm go off."

Juarez and one of his crew 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 Hotel California Dunsmuir on Sunday, Oct. 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 city fire departments from Dunsmuir, Mount Shasta, Castella, Weed, Lake Shastina and McCloud.

The contractor turned off the power while he and his crew told people to evacuate the hotel, Juarez said.

Minutes later the fire reignited, he said. "We used four fire extinguishers on the fire." 

Then the blaze exploded, Juarez said.

Travel writer and photographer Timothy Hearn of Redding was taking pictures in downtown Dunsmuir around 1 p.m. when he smelled smoke. 

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

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

"We were crawling on the floor," Juarez said. "The smoke was so bad we couldn't see where we were going."

Juarez — the only person injured in the fire — bumped his head on a door while trying to crawl out of the building. He has a small concussion, he said. His companion picked him up and helped him get outside.

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

Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office deputies and California Highway Patrol officers coordinated traffic downtown while firefighters fought the blaze, Padilla said. Crews contained the fire in the storage room, but smoke and water used to fight the fire caused additional damage. 

The Red Cross is helping the hotel's long-term residents who were unable to go back to their rooms as of this week, Padilla said.

Now comes the long process of repairing the hotel, Juarez said on Wednesday, Oct. 19. "We have a team coming up from the Bay Area. They're going to evaluate" the site and estimate the damage and costs.

Juarez — who is recovering from his injury and has a slight headache — isn't sure how long it will take to fix the damage and get back on track with the hotel's renovation, but said he's "determined to get it open soon."

With weather turning cool throughout Siskiyou County, more people are using space heaters, Padilla said. People should be careful using any heating appliance and follow the company's safety instructions. Now is also a good time to make sure smoke detectors are working properly.

Jessica Skropanic is a features 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 recreation Facebook group. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today. Thank you.