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Fire at Wal-Mart might be arson

Fire investigators are looking into the possibility that someone intentionally set the fire at the Wal-Mart in Ceres on Monday night that filled the department store on Mitchell Road with smoke and injured one person who helped douse the flames. Ron Keyes, an investigator with the Modesto Fire Department, said he is looking at the possibility of arson and that the fire is suspicious but he hasn't ruled out other possibilities. He said he could not release further details. Modesto Fire Department investigates fires throughout the county. The fire started about 10 p.m. in the menswear section of the store, according to Ceres fire Capt. Eric Holly. Employees and customers had put out the flames with fire extinguishers by the time crews arrived, he said, and one of the people who helped was transported to Doctors Medical Center for smoke inhalation. Wal-Mart estimated damage to merchandise at $150,000, Holly said. All departments in the store were open by 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Protect yourself

Modesto is experiencing a rash of auto thefts and residential and vehicle burglaries, police are reporting. Officials are offering weekly tips to protect your vehicle from being stolen:

Don't put your name on your mailbox or on your house. A burglar can call directory assistance to get your telephone number and call your home while in front of your house to see if you are away.

Road to stay closed

Oakdale council members voted Monday to keep J Street between Ash and Oak streets closed for another six months. The vote follows four other actions since 2005 to close the strip temporarily. Originally, Oak Valley Hospital requested the block be closed until late 2008 so construction crews would have a staging and storage area for the hospital's expansion project. Recently, city staff found that the 10-foot-tall retaining wall that runs along the south side of J Street is faulty. Staff discovered the weakness after the warranty on the work had expired. Public Works Director John Word said he favored leaving the road closed until the next phase of the hospital project begins. The project is expected to be completed by 2010.

Yesteryears

50 YEARS AGO: A panel of a dozen specialists analyzing the juvenile delinquency problem in Modesto said there is no one cure. The panel suggested more parental involvement, giving youths more responsibility, more foster homes and opening a county camp for errant boys and a dormitory for girls would help.

25 YEARS AGO: The Bee reported that Ripon lost its most senior senior citizen. Anna Silveira died of natural causes in a local rest home. She was 106.

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