FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – A fire that broke out Tuesday morning at a large industrial building in downtown Fresno marked the 102nd vacant building fire of the year.
Investigators say they believe the fire was a result of homeless activity, a problem they say has gotten worse this year.
“Just before 4 a.m. this morning, fire crews arrived at the structure behind me and found fire coming through the roof and second-story windows,” explained Jonathan Lopez with the Fresno Fire Department.
Lopez says the two-alarm fire required seven fire engines and three ladder trucks.
Crews took defensive action against the fire, but because this building caught fire in May, the structure was already weakened and too dangerous for crews to enter.
“Crews did a search in the nearby buildings looking for any people inside… once it was determined that the building was clear, they put the aerial ladders up and began to put water on the fire,” said Lopez.
According to the fire department, there have been 3,111 fires started by the homeless this year, which is an increase of more than 50% from last year. Jarette Gabaldon works at a store in front of the building on h street and says he’s seen it first-hand.
“A couple of months before I started here, they had caught it on fire, and they said they were going to condemn it. The fire department is usually out here maybe once or twice a week. We usually call the police once a week, they’re usually back there causing a disturbance, breaking stuff, getting into the trash, it’s getting out of hand,” said Gabaldon.
Councilmember Miguel Arias spearheaded an ordinance in July that forces the owners of vacant commercial buildings to be held to the same standards as residential property owners, with the threat of big fines and loss of property. He released a statement about Tuesday’s downtown fire saying:
This warehouse fire is the latest reminder that is imperative for property owners to secure and routinely inspect their vacant commercial buildings.
This warehouse was in the process of being demolished; the complete demotion will now take place as soon as tomorrow given the fire has undermined the structural integrity of the building.
I ask our property owners to do their part by securing and checking in on their properties frequently and residents to report any suspicious activity in vacant buildings.