While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, resident Ray Washburn said the engine of a motor home appeared to still be hot after it was parked in his backyard, and he wondered if that possibly started the blaze.
"That was my my fifth wheel," Washburn said, pointing to charred metal remains in his back yard. "It was absolutely perfect -- (now it's) gone."
At the same time, nearby Old West-style replica buildings in his yard were spared, and no homes were impacted.
Emergency dispatchers reported the incident, which took place on the 15000 block of Ash Avenue, at 2:08 p.m., said Fire Chief Steve Hall of the Patterson Fire Department and West Stanislaus County Fire Protection District.
Nearly 30 firefighters from the West Stanislaus County Fire Protection District and the Patterson, Newman, Mountain View, Keyes and Turlock Rural fire departments responded to the blaze, Hall said.
In addition, many neighbors assisted, moving out nearby horses and using garden hoses to help keep the flames from spreading, said neighbor Vi Parker, who lost a couple of trailers and an old structure from the 1940s that she said she planned to tear down anyway.
She repeatedly proclaimed it was a miracle that her home did not burn down, and she thanked her neighbors, friends and God that the blaze was not any worse.
She also gave credit to Stanley Brannon of S.C. Brannon and Sons, who brought in a water truck to help extinguish the fire.
"It's magnificent -- all these wonderful people," she said of the help.
She said she noticed a thick plume of black smoke as she was driving home from Turlock, and she knew it had to be coming from her house or from the Washburn property. That plume also could be seen throughout the city of Patterson.
Hall said firefighters had to be particularly cautious with eucalyptus trees on the property, which were consumed by flames as soon as they started to catch fire. Those flames could have spread quickly, even with the relatively light breezes on Sunday, he said.
"Once a fire gets into those, they take off like Roman candles," he said.
He also noted there were several propane tanks in the area of where the fire started.
Ash Avenue neighbor Robin Imada said she heard an explosion when the fire began. She said Washburn was extremely cautious about potential fire hazards, and she was surprised the incident occurred.
"This was way too close for comfort," she said.
• Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187, ext. 26, or firstname.lastname@example.org.