Crime

Suspicious fire at Planned Parenthood Modesto Health Center

The Modesto Fire and Police departments are investigating a suspicious fire at the Planned Parenthood Modesto Health Center on McHenry Avenue. The fire started in the 3 a.m. hour Wednesday, May 25. Soot from the blaze can be seen on the south wall of the building above where smoke and flames reportedly came through a broken glass door
The Modesto Fire and Police departments are investigating a suspicious fire at the Planned Parenthood Modesto Health Center on McHenry Avenue. The fire started in the 3 a.m. hour Wednesday, May 25. Soot from the blaze can be seen on the south wall of the building above where smoke and flames reportedly came through a broken glass door jfarrow@modbee.com

The Modesto fire and police departments are investigating a suspicious, but apparently small, fire at the Planned Parenthood Modesto Health Center on McHenry Avenue early Wednesday.

Signs on the doors of the center said it would be closed Wednesday, and a spokeswoman said staff members are assessing fire damage and working to reopen as soon as possible.

At about 3:25 a.m., one fire engine was dispatched to a water-flow alarm sounding at the 1431 McHenry Ave. center, said Battalion Chief Jesse Nicasio of Modesto Fire. When additional reports came in from passers-by of flames and smoke coming from the building, the call was upgraded to a commercial working structure fire and additional resources were sent, Nicasio said.

“Engine 5 found a broken glass door, the fire alarm sounding and fire sprinkler activation,” he said. The sprinkler system extinguished the fire, but crews ensured it was out, Nicasio said.

Information was not immediately available as to where in the two-story building the fire started or what damage was done.

By 8 a.m. Wednesday, the broken glass door on the south side of the building had been replaced but glass remained on the carpet inside. Soot remained on the door frame and on the exterior wall above it.

Liz Figueroa, vice president of public affairs for San Jose-based Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, said, “There’s been nothing out of the ordinary” in the way of threats or suspicious activity directed at the center. “We’re constantly getting suspicious calls and things we’re monitoring. We have noticed an increase in the past few months of suspicious calls and different packages left near the door that we don’t know what they are.”

But she noted that nothing left outside the clinic has been dangerous or menacing; often, it’s just trash. And while the number of suspicious calls have risen, Figueroa said, nothing has reached the level of being threatening.

“We’re very cautious of everything,” she said.

According to its website, services offered at the McHenry health center include abortions, birth control, HIV testing, LGBT services, men’s and women’s health care, emergency contraception (morning-after pills), pregnancy testing and services, and STD testing, treatment and vaccines.

The sign on the door includes a telephone number, 209-574-5900, to call to schedule appointments while the health center is closed. Figueroa said the staff is redirecting patients to the nearest health center depending on where they live.

Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327

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