Modesto firefighters stay busy battling three fires in one night

11/24/2013 7:05 AM

11/24/2013 10:04 PM

Firefighters in Modesto battled three fires late Saturday night and early Sunday that left three structures heavily damaged. One person suffered minor injuries, a shop owner was put out of business temporarily and others were left without a home.

Over the weekend, there were four structure fires in less than a 24-hour period; at least one of them appeared to be suspicious.

The largest fire was a three-alarm blaze at A&J Auto Shop at 1901 Prescott Road, just north of Plaza Parkway, which occurred about 11:30 p.m. Saturday.

“The first engine arrived in less than four minutes and reported heavy black smoke venting from several roll-up doors at the front of the business,” said Battalion Chief Sean Slamon of Modesto Regional Fire Authority. Firefighters brought the blaze under control in 20 minutes and kept the fire from spreading to adjacent offices, Slamon said.

Eight engine companies, two truck companies and four chief officers responded. Authorities determined the fire started in a vehicle inside the repair shop and caused $125,000 in damage. Firefighters remained at the scene for several hours, helping the business owner secure the shop, Slamon said. No injuries were reported.

Business owner Jeff Cometa, who was resting in a cushioned office chair Sunday afternoon, said he expects to be out of business for a few months. “I have not slept yet,” he said. “We will get it fixed.”

At 2:20 a.m. Sunday, firefighters were dispatched to a home in the 1800 block of Evergreen Avenue on a report of a garage fire. They arrived to find an attached garage engulfed in flames.

Though firefighters were told someone might be trapped inside, the sole occupant managed to get out with minor injuries, Slamon said. Six engines, two trucks and 27 firefighters responded to the call.

The fire destroyed the garage and caused significant damage throughout the house. A vehicle parked in the driveway was gutted and the fire damaged the paint on a Dodge Charger parked outside the home. The Red Cross is providing the occupant with temporary housing. The cause is under investigation.

Later on Sunday, Robert Gonzalez slowly looked through the garage on Evergreen for anything to salvage. He said he had tried to douse the flames with a garden hose while holding a piece of plywood to shield himself from the heat.

A portrait of his mother, Concepcion Gonzalez, was among the items preserved inside the house. Gonzalez said his mother was away from home because of a health problem. If she had been home, Gonzalez said, he doubted she would have been able to escape the fire.

Another fire broke out at 4:18 a.m. in a two-story house in the 1800 block of Ustick Road, south of West Hatch Road in southwest Modesto. Crews contained the fire to two rooms on the second floor. A total of five engines, one truck company and two battalion chiefs brought the fire under control in 15 minutes. The home appeared to be vacant; no one was injured.

The cause of that fire also is under investigation. Damage is estimated at $60,000.

About 7:20 a.m. Saturday, crews from Modesto Regional Fire Authority and Ceres battled a fire in a vacant house in the 1100 block of Alamo Avenue in south Modesto. Officials said the first engine arrived in less than five minutes. More than 20 firefighters were called to the scene and they brought the fire under control in 10 minutes.

Most of the house was damaged, with the loss estimated at $25,000. Authorities said the cause was suspicious. No one was injured.

Officials with the Modesto Regional Fire Authority urged residents to test their smoke detectors every month.

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