MODESTO -- Modesto Regional Fire Authority crews battled two blazes in quick succession early Wednesday. Nobody was hurt in the fires, which did significant damage to a home and a business.
The first call came in at 12:19 a.m. Wednesday at a home in the 1400 block of Mount Vernon Drive, according to Battalion Chief Cecil Ridge.
Firefighters arrived within five minutes to find the front of the house fully engulfed in flames. All of the occupants had gotten out of the home safely, Ridge said.
It took firefighters 20 minutes to extinguish the fire, which was caused by a candle. Ridge placed damage estimates at $60,000, with $50,000 to the building and $10,000 to contents. The home had a smoke alarm, but it wasn't functioning.
The American Red Cross responded to help the four adult occupants of the home with somewhere to stay.
The second fire call came in at 12:38 a.m. Wednesday in the 200 block of West Hatch Road. An auto-repair business went up in flames; firefighters spent 20 minutes putting out the fire, then an hour or so looking for hidden fires and smoldering embers.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. Ridge said the business owners closed up shop between 5 and 6 p.m. Tuesday "and everything was fine."
Despite the blaze, the shop reopened for business Wednesday; most of the damage was confined to the back.
"The owner had had to do repairs to the back part of shop and had spent quite a bit of money," Ridge said. "It was disappointing for the man to see the work he'd paid for ruined."
Though the colder and wetter weather means a drop in the grass fires that keep firefighters busy during the summer, the season brings an increase in fires caused by chimneys, candles and the like.
Ridge recommended that fireplace users make sure their chimneys are serviced to ensure anything flammable has been cleaned out and there are no cracks or other damage.
Winter also brings "urban campers," Ridge said. Those are homeless people who squat in abandoned or foreclosed homes, often using rudimentary methods for heat that involve fire.
The house on Mount Vernon had no electricity, and the residents were using a generator, Ridge said. That's also dangerous, though it isn't what caused Wednesday's fire.
Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.
FIRE SAFETY TIPS
Be cautious of creosote and smoke from your fireplace, which coats the inside of your chimney and creates fuel for fires.
Have a professional chimney sweeper clean the chimney each year.
Remember to open the flue.
Install a spark arrester (a mesh screen) on the top of your chimney to keep sparks from igniting your roof or debris outside your house.
Select a space heater with a guard around the heating area to help keep children, pets and clothing away from the heat source.
Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or when it's unattended.
Place heaters at least three feet from objects such as bedding, furniture and drapes.
Never use heaters to dry clothes or shoes.
Do not place heaters where towels or other objects could fall on the heater and start a fire.
Keep candles in holders meant for them, and away from children or pets.
Never leave a burning candle unattended.
Always unplug Christmas tree lights before leaving your home or going to bed.
Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays.
Never use lighted candles to decorate a tree, and make sure any lighted candles in the room are placed well away from tree branches.
Try to keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water daily. Do not buy a tree that is dry or dropping needles. Check for fresh, green needles, and place your tree in a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over.
If you buy an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled as fire-retardant.
Keep a watchful eye on children around Christmas trees, and do not let them play with the wiring or lights. Store matches and lighters up high, out of reach, preferably in a locked cabinet.
Make sure the tree is at least three feet from any heat source, such as fireplaces and radiators. Try to position the tree near an outlet so cords are not running long distances. Do not place the tree where it might block exits.
Safely dispose of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are highly flammable and should not be left in a house or garage, or placed against the house.
When decorating your tree, always use lights according to the manufacturer's instructions. Some lights are designed only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
Any string of lights with worn cords or loose bulb connections should not be used. Connect no more than three strands of push-in bulbs and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.
Change smoke detector batteries twice a year and replace the smoke detector once every 10 years.
Source: Modesto and Turlock fire departments