FRESNO, California (KGPE) — An abandoned bar with a long history has been set on fire numerous times recently. The Fresno Fire Department said when the weather is cooler, they pay closer attention to old vacant buildings due to the homeless.
Fresno Fire’s latest call to the bar at Weber and Clinton avenues happened Thursday morning around 5:30 a.m. Crews put out what looked to be a warming fire that got out of control on the outside of the building.
For Mark Arax, the building represents a lot of history, as well as a “lot of ghosts.” One of those ghosts is his father, Ara Arax. In 1972, Ara Arax owned the bar and it was called Ara’s Apartments.
On January 2, 1972, two gunmen shot Ara Arax. He later died at Saint Agnes Hospital. Mark Arax, who was 15-years-old when his father died, would write a book titled In My Father’s Name about this family tragedy more than 20 years later after becoming an award-winning reporter at the LA Times.
Fresno Police identified both suspects in 2001 and arrested one of them. The other was already dead.
“That book ended up [finding] the two gunmen 30 years later, who came out from Detroit and killed my father on a foggy Sunday night in 1972,” Mark Arax said.
In those decades after Ara Arax’s death, the bar has had many named before ultimately being abandoned. But, when it was Ara’s Apartments, Mark Arax still remembers so much like it was yesterday.
“That place was rockin’ and rollin.’ I used to clean it up, you can’t imagine what I’d find the next day after those Friday and Saturday nights,” Mark Arax said with a chuckle.
Homeless-related fires in Fresno
So far in 2020, Fresno Fire public information officer Shane Brown said there’s been 1,751 fires started by the city’s homeless. In all of 2019, there was 932.
Brown adds it’s hard because even when vacant buildings are sealed up — squatters find a way in.
“I mean, they’ve brought out power tools and cut chains, cut locks,” he said.
Fresno Fire works closely with city code enforcement to make vacant properties more secure. A former rehab business by Belmont and Arthur avenues, for example, would be host to hundreds of fires over the years, according to Brown.
However, after the city got a fence put up earlier this year in the summer, there hasn’t been a fire since.
Each Fresno Fire station identifies vacant properties in their immediate area, so when certain addresses come in on a call they know what they’re getting themselves into.