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Fire destroys popcorn vendor booth, damages another vendor

Posted: Monday, Aug 26th, 2013

Flames engulf a van and the Kettle Pop kettle corn business Sunday at the Watsonville Certified Farmers' Market. (Contributed photo)

WATSONVILLE — A kettle corn vendor’s booth at the Sunday Farmers Market in downtown Watsonville was seriously damaged when a propane tank tipped over and ignited, causing a blaze that scorched the company’s van.

A yogurt vendor at the market for the first time also sustained damage in the fire, according to Watsonville Farmers Market Manager Jesus Madrigal.

According to Aaron Reimer, sales manager for Benicia-based Kettlepop, the kettle where the popcorn is cooked was placed too close to the van.

The vendor suffered mild injuries, and was treated and released at the scene, Watsonville Fire Capt. Kirt Vojvoda said.

Vojvoda said the fire was particularly tough to approach because water shot onto a grease fire usually agitates the flames instead of putting the fire out.

Instead, firefighters used class A foam to smother the flames, Vojvoda said.

“Those kettles usually burn real hot so we had to be extra careful,” he said.

Vojvoda said the fire was triggered when an unsecure propane tank was knocked over and the tank’s valve was shaken loose, releasing the propane, which leaked right near the pilot light.

According to Vojvoda, anyone using heating devices at events such as farmers markets and fairs must have special permits proving a fire marshal has checked off a list of safety standards.

“One of the requirements is that, if you are using propane to heat, that tank has to be securely stationed,” Vojvoda said.

Kettlepop, which has been in business since 1999, sells several different flavors of gourmet popcorn from Tahoe to Monterey and throughout the Bay Area, Reimer said.

According to Reimer, the company pioneered the method of cooking kettle corn at outdoor events in northern California, a method that has taken hold at numerous events.

“We thought it would be a fad, but it has really taken off,” he said.

Despite the damage, Reimer said the company will be back at the market, as soon as Friday.

“It’s a very strong market,” Reimer said. “We’ve been here almost a decade and we have a strong following.”

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