Three injured after car drives into Palace of Fruit, starts fire in Penngrove

Firefighters extinguished a large fire at the Palace of Fruit in Penngrove early Saturday morning that ignited after a car fleeing California Highway Patrol Officers crashed into the fruit stand on Old Redwood Highway, police and fire officials said.

Two female passengers, one with minor injuries and one with more serious injuries, were transported to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, according to CHP Officer David deRutte. One male passenger suffered minor injuries.

The driver, 19-year-old Christopher Anaya, was not injured. He was arrested and booked into the Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of felony evading law enforcement and reckless driving, deRutte said.

CHP officers tried to pull over the Infiniti sedan after clocking it at 90 mph heading north on Highway 101 near the Petaluma Boulevard exit, deRutte said. The driver fled from officers and exited the freeway at West Sierra Avenue in Cotati. Officers canceled the pursuit for safety reasons as the car sped southbound on Old Redwood Highway.

Shortly thereafter, officers found the car crashed into the fruit stand. The car caught fire, and officers pulled all four occupants trapped in the vehicle out through the back window.

Firefighters responded to a report of the wreck near Ely Road and Old Redwood Highway at around 3 a.m., according to Rancho Adobe Fire Department Battalion Chief Mike Weihman. The car’s fuel tank ruptured, which fueled flames as the building ignited.

The incident was upgraded to a structure fire and six engines and around 20 firefighters from various local fire departments, including the Rancho Adobe and Petaluma departments, were dispatched to the scene. It took about an hour to put out the blaze, Weihman said.

“(The fruit stand) is pretty close to a total loss,” he said.

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help Palace of Fruit rebuild.

You can reach Staff Writer Ethan Varian at or 707-521-5412. On Twitter @ethanvarian

Ethan Varian

Housing and homelessness, The Press Democrat 

I've lived in California for most of my life, and it's hard for me to remember when the state hasn't been in a housing crisis. Here in Sonoma County, sharply rising housing costs and increasing homelessness are reshaping what was long considered the Bay Area’s “affordable” region. As The Press Democrat’s housing and homelessness reporter, I aim to cover how officials, advocates, developers and residents are reacting to and experiencing the ongoing crisis.

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