Oakhurst wildfire destroys Sierra's Old Barn

News ID: 231
Date: 2014-08-18
Source: Sierra Chest

(source: fresnobee.com)

"A fast-moving brush fire in Oakhurst Monday sparked a massive evacuation of residents and tourists from the foothill community as fire crews from throughout the region tried to keep the flames from spreading. Named the Junction fire, the blaze quickly blackened about 1,200 acres in the north end of town and beyond. The fire briefly threatened a pair of massive propane tanks at Suburban Propane along Highway 41 when the company's building was ignited by a spot fire. Fire crews ordered most people to move back a quarter-mile from the business, and firefighters were ready to abandon the fight if flames got too close to the tanks themselves. In the end, the tanks were spared. Other structures were not so lucky. As of 9 p.m., eight structures were destroyed, and at least 500 more were threatened. Gov. Jerry Brown's office announced late Monday that a federal emergency grant will help defray 75% of the firefighting costs. Two firefighters were injured, and one was taken to a hospital for evaluation, fire officials said.

The fire prompted officials to close Highway 41 and evacuate hotels and other businesses along the route. More than 13,000 homes and businesses were given evacuation orders, according to the Madera County Sheriff's Office."

We learned from Sierra alumn Richard Powell that one of the structures that has been destroyed by the fire was Sierra On-Line's Old Barn, the building where The Sierra Network (TSN), later renamed Imagination Network (INN), was located - the cradle of online gaming. This was later also confirmed by Sierra alumn Bill Shockley, who still resides in Oakhurst and was ordered to evacuate his house along with other residents. Bill later however posted an update, stating that:

"Just to be clear, the fire missed most of the town. Looked like the fire was headed straight for our house, but then the wind picked up and sent it along the look lower ridge, just above town where it jumped Hwy 41 and took out Suburban propane and the Old Barn. No confirmation on any other structures, just rumors at this point. The city of Oakhurst is not on fire."

Warren Schwader, the first programmer of Sierra On-Line and designer of the first Hoyle games commented: "Very sad. The Old Barn is gone. Worked 5 years in there. It was one of the most unique buildings around. I have no idea if my home is safe. It is about a mile and a half away from this building." Sheryl Hodgins who also worked at TSN commented: "I'm still in disbelief this morning as I'm sure all who were connected there are... much sadness as there were so many memories in that building that housed the TSN/INN part of the Sierra family. I hope for everyone's safety."
Sierra's Old Barn

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