An occupant and two firefighters suffered burns resulting from a structure fire at 1143 El Portal Drive early Sunday morning.
Firefighters responded to the single-family residence at about 4:30 a.m. after receiving calls from neighbors, said Battalion Chief Don Long of the Merced Fire Department.
Flames had engulfed the back patio, he said. The attic was also on fire and had penetrated the roof, which eventually collapsed, he said.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the fire and police departments, but is "suspicious in nature," Long said.
Two firefighters with second-degree burns were treated and released from Mercy Medical Center, he said. A resident suffered second- and third-degree burns to one leg and was flown to a burn treatment facility in Fresno.
The building partially collapsed on the two firefighters, said Chief Ken Mitten.
Jeff Tomerlin, a captain who was with the first engine on the scene, suffered burns to his forehead and ears.
Firefighter Wes Balthazar, who was with Tomerlin, suffered burns to his leg, Mitten said.
The woman who was flown to the burn center was not inside the building, Mitten said. She was down the block.
A neighbor said the occupant, who had been locked out of her house, was trying to keep herself warm with a fire in the backyard.
The fire caused about $200,000 in property loss and $10,000 in content loss, Long said.
Three engines and a ladder truck were dispatched to the fire, he added. Thirteen firefighters were there to help control the blaze. Long and Mitten were also at the fire, which was under control by 5:33 a.m.
The building is now uninhabitable, Mitten said.
Sunday's fire wasn't the first time the department's responded to a fire there, he added. There have been two other fires in the last couple months.
Though much of the fire was in the back, damage was clearly visible from the street.
A front gate to the house had the words, "Amen, heaven, God and hell" rubbed into it.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.