Fire destroys Turlock home, site of meth lab

TURLOCK -- A suspicious fire Friday afternoon destroyed a vacant two-story house east of Turlock that neighbors said was the site of a methamphetamine laboratory bust a year ago.

Firefighters responded to the blaze on East Monte Vista Avenue, just west of Faith Home Road, at 3:08 p.m., said Assistant Chief Brian Sorenson of the Keyes Fire Department.

The fire started in the attic above a two-car garage, but it quickly spread and forced the firefighters to pull back and take a defensive stance.

Sorenson said the flames were so heavy that firefighters were not able to start an interior attack on the fire.

"It was too dangerous to risk sending anyone in there," Sorenson said. "There was no saving it."

Battalion Chief John Vasquez injured his knee when he tripped on a hose line and was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital, Sorenson said. No other injuries were reported.

Several other fire departments assisted Keyes in battling the blaze. The cause of the fire had not been determined, Sorenson said.

Bill Rossi, 60, lives nearby and owns the almond orchards that surround the destroyed house. He said the house had been vacant since authorities raided it and found a meth lab operation in an upstairs room.

Rossi said the home continued to serve as a hangout for drug users and transients who would break in.

"It's been a real problem," he said. "I've been coming around closing the doors and closing the fences. It's gone now."

He said the home had gone through several owners before it was placed in foreclosure.

Neighbors said they saw two men leaving the home just before the fire started, but Sorenson said it was unknown if authorities found them.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394.