Jul 09, 2020

Vacant house near Fresno State gutted by fire for the second time in months

A home in a quiet residential neighborhood five blocks south of campus was destroyed after it caught fire for the second time in less than two months early Monday morning.

Fresno Fire Department Battalion Chief Bob Van Tassel said the department received a call around 1 a.m. from a neighbor who reported seeing flames in the backyard of a home in the 4500 block of East San Gabriel Avenue. He said that when the first engines arrived, firefighters discovered “heavy fire coming from the rear of a boarded-up house.”

Van Tassel said by the time firefighters entered the burning home, the blaze had spread throughout. He said the decision was quickly made to get firefighters out and fight the fire from a distance. Large amounts of water were shot through the roof from an extended aerial ladder, and firefighters streamed water from hand lines to keep the fire from spreading to adjacent houses.

He said the first crews on scene called for a second alarm within a few minutes. At its height, approximately 36 firefighters from four engines and three ladder trucks were fighting the blaze. Two battalion chiefs also responded.

He added that sparks blowing downwind were a concern due to the summer heat. He said roofs and vegetation are extremely dry right now due to the many days of 100-plus degree temperatures Fresno has experienced this summer. Firefighters made sure there were no additional fires due to sparks.

Van Tassel said the house was vacant and being renovated. There was a large construction bin sitting in the front yard. He said the house burned recently and had been boarded up. He said there are questions how securely boarded up the rear portion of the house was.

Van Tassel said there were reports of a couple of explosions early in the fire. He commented they could have come from construction debris such as aerosol cans or a propane tank.

The house was also the scene of a two-alarm fire in late June. Neighbors said that after the first fire, Fresno police discovered people had been squatting in it. They also said police found a large marijuana grow operation inside after the first blaze.

Van Tassel said there was no electricity or natural gas connected to the home, so the cause of Monday morning’s fire hadn’t been determined yet. He said fire investigators would be looking into the potential cause, adding that the investigation would likely be done in daylight.

A neighboring home, at 4532 E. San Gabriel, sustained water damage. Van Tassel said water being sprayed by firefighters to protect it from the flames next door managed to get inside. Firefighters were working with the residents to vacuum up the water to minimize the potential damage.

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