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Fire Burns Out Family Beekeeping Operation
Some 200 beehives were burned out in a Tuesday, July 27 fire along River Road; the bees being raised by brothers Javier and Carlos Munoz were to be part of a pollinating business. A friend has started a GoFundMe to help raise money to replace the bees and hives. Photo Contributed

After a devastating fire burned out nearly all of his beehives, a local resident is buoyed by the efforts of a friend who started a GoFundMe to help get him back in business.

Javier Munoz, who had been raising bees with his brother Carlos to use as the base for a pollinating business, saw those dreams go up in flames this past week. The beehives, a few hundred in all, were placed on property along River Road, almost directly across from the Escalon Sportsman’s Club.

“We got a call of a grass fire,” Escalon Fire Department Battalion Chief Dan Morriss said of the late afternoon call on July 27.

Arriving on scene, crews found not only a grass and vegetation fire but also discovered several beehives burning.

“There was basically a 95 percent loss on about 200 hives,” Morriss noted. “We were able to contain the fire to less than an acre but it did send up a lot of dark smoke and the mop up was difficult because so many of the bees were swarming.”

Munoz, who reached out to The Times following the incident, said despite the loss, he was grateful for his friend, helping to raise money to get the bee venture up and running again.

The GoFundMe account, ‘Bring back Escalon Bees’ had a couple of dozen donations as of presstime and had raised some $1,100. It can be reached by going to Munoz said originally, he was embarrassed that the page had been started, but that later turned to gratitude for those willing to help. This was his second foray into the beekeeping business, having also done some work in the field four years ago. After a time, he was unable to keep the bees where they were then situated and had to get rid of them.

“These bees were super strong, we were excited,” he said of looking forward to a healthy crop to start the pollination business with in the coming months.

But, after working with and feeding the bees with his son on Tuesday morning, the fire broke out in the afternoon.

His sister, who runs a fruit stand on River Road, was the first to notice the smoke in the area and alerted him.

“It was surreal,” Munoz admitted. “We tried stomping it out (fire) with our hands and feet.”

Morriss, meanwhile, said he tried to conduct an investigation into the cause of the fire but was unable to the day of the event because of the amount of bees still swarming in the area after the fire was contained.

Escalon called in mutual aid from Ripon, Salida and Modesto for the fire, which was reported about 5:30 p.m.

“It’s ironic,” Morriss noted. “I’ve been in the fire service for 38 years and never had a call involving bees; this is the second one this year, we had one earlier in Ripon that we assisted on.”

Crews were on scene for about two hours.