Fire crews had to contend with numerous obstacles when battling a blaze at a single-story residential structure west of downtown Modesto from late Monday into early Tuesday. A resident and two firefighters were injured in the incident.
The dispatch at 11:23 p.m. was to a home on the 200 block of North Emerald Avenue with a large addition divided into several apartment-size living quarters, said . Modesto Fire Department Interim Chief Alan Ernst, who was among those responding to the call. First crews on the scene found heavy fire in the structure.
Access proved “extremely difficult” and fire suppression was delayed because of it, Ernst wrote in his incident report. A narrow walkway, fenced on both sides, made it hard to get hose where it was needed. Awnings in front also impeded hose placement.
There also were a number of gates and fences, he said, and most significantly, each unit built into the property had only one entry/exit door, he said. Firefighters could not go from room to room as in a traditional home, but rather had to keep going outside.
Ernst said he’s requested that the city building department and Fire Prevention Bureau follow up on the property Tuesday. “I have concerns about whether it’s legal the way it’s divided up – it certainly isn’t safe,” he said. “We couldn’t find a working smoke detector in any room.”
The initial attack was from the exterior to stabilize the fire and protect an adjacent home that was threatened. Once firefighters were inside, Ernst said there was a point that he wrestled with whether to pull them out for their safety. But the only two injuries to firefighters ended up being rolled ankles because of the many potholes on the property, he said.
One resident was taken to a hospital for anxiety and treatment of smoke inhalation, he said.
The entire structure was left uninhabitable. At least a dozen people were displaced, Ernst said. Red Cross provided assistance to six adults and four children, while two other residents declined assistance, he said. There were a couple of other rooms whose occupants apparently were away at the time, he said.
There were several pets, including two service dogs, living in units, Ernst said. Only one dog has not been accounted for and may have run away during the fire, he said.
It was about 3:30 before crews were done at the scene, Ernst said. Early estimate of the damage was set at $100,000.
Five engines, a truck and two battalion chiefs responded.
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327