Fires claim abandoned home, pallets, vehicles

Two fires a couple of miles and a half-hour apart claimed an abandoned house, pallet piles and vehicles early Thursday morning in south Modesto and Ceres.

About 1:39 a.m., the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District responded to a report of a fully involved house in the 200 block of South Santa Cruz Avenue. The Modesto and Ceres fire departments went to assist.

The fire was at an abandoned house that previously had burned and not been repaired. Thursday’s fire was threatening a house to the south but crews kept that home from suffering anything more than a scorched exterior, said Modesto Battalion Chief Hugo Patino.

The abandoned house itself was gutted by the fire, Patino said. Crews attacked the fire from the exterior and knocked it down fairly quickly, he said. “It had significant fire damage from before and was much worse this time. It was inhabitable before,” he said, but that didn’t keep people from squatting in it.

No one was around when crews arrived on scene, Patino said. The cause of the fire is under investigation. He said investigators believe it was human-caused, but whether accidental or intentional is unknown.

Because of the previous heavy damage to the home, he estimated Thursday’s damage at $25,000.

While crews still were at South Santa Cruz, a call came in about 2 a.m. of a pallet fire at a business on the 500 block of South Ninth Street. Companies were released from South Santa Cruz to assist the Ceres Fire Department with that blaze.

The fire was at a pallet storage facility, Patino said.

Ceres Battalion Chief Rich Scola said it was on South Ninth just north of Hosmer Avenue, and his department was assisted by Stanislaus Consolidated, Turlock City, Keyes, Burbank, Westport and Woodland Avenue crews. He estimated there were 28 firefighters on scene.

Firefighters were delayed in attacking the fire because of a water supply issue at the scene, Scola said. They ended up having to use water tenders to bring water from three hydrants in the area.

In addition to two large stacks of pallets, the fire claimed three cars and two motor homes on the property, Scola said. Crews remained on scene until about 7 a.m. Thursday to hose down smoldering material.

The fire was contained to the property, although lots of embers were landing in a nearby neighborhood, Scola said. The cause is under investigation.

Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327