Fire takes desolate house from woman who stayed

The neighbors knew her only as Sue. They said she was the elderly woman who stayed behind when family moved to Missouri a couple of weeks ago.

She continued sleeping in the house on Rouse Avenue even after there was no water and no electricity. Sue lived there because she had no place else to go.

She'll have to find another place now. A raging fire Saturday afternoon burned down Sue's southwest Modesto house.

Battalion Chief Mark Johansen of the Modesto Fire Department said five units of the city and Burbank-Paradise departments responded to the 5:15 p.m. alarm. The roof and other hot spots were still showing flames just after 6 p.m.

The house was a total loss, with the roof buckling and collapsing into the structure. Johansen said the cause of the fire was under investigation. No damage estimate was immediately available.

According to neighbors, Sue and her dog had left the home for a trip to the park next to John Thurman Field. That was hours before the blaze. The park and the river had been part of Sue's regular routine since her family left.

Leah Yarbrough lives across the the street. She saw smoke just before the fire engines arrived. She shook her head while watching firefighters pour water on the flames. "She lost everything," Yarbrough said. "Thank God she has a dog."

What kind of dog? "Oh, it's an ugly mutt," she said with a shudder.

Yarbrough was sure her friend was safe. She had seen one of Sue's acquaintances escort her away from the home after the fire.

Another neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said she spent 30 minutes looking for Sue near the river Saturday night. "She needs a place to live. I don't know what she's going to do."

Bee staff writer Roger Hoskins can be reached at rhoskins@modbee.com or 578-2311.