Number of homeless-related fires surge as temperatures dip in Fresno

Local News

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE) – Authorities have provided an update about Wednesday’s house fire in Fresno, where a man broke into a vacant home, lit a fire in the fireplace, and went to take a shower.

Investigators say while the man was in the shower, the fire in the fireplace spread out into the living room.

When crews responded, the man was rescued from inside the home and quickly fled the scene.

This is just one of many homeless-related fire calls that firefighters are responding to.

Fresno Fire officials say they have had an increase in homeless-related fires and those calls have gone up by 50 percent.

Fire calls in a big city like Fresno during the winter months are nothing new.

“We always have more fire calls when the temperatures go down,” said Fresno Fire spokesperson Jonathan Lopez. “More homeless-related fires.”

But the cause for many of these fires is a more recent problem that Lopez says has one common factor.

“We do have an increase in homeless activity and homeless-related fires this year, about 50 percent” Lopez explained.  

Lopez said that of the more than 6,000 fire calls, they respond to 3,000 are related to some type of homeless activity.

“People are looking for ways to get out of the cold,” Lopez said.

The house fire prompted a large response after smoke was seen coming from the vacant home.

“Evidentially what happened is a squatter had broken into the structure and lit a fire in the fireplace and got in the shower and while the fire was left unattended began to spread and burn through the floor all the way down “firefighters had to break in and cut a hole in the floor to put the fire out,” said Lopez.

Crews rescued the man who was found showering inside. Once outside, however, he fled the scene on foot. He did not live at the home.

“We do see squatters break into vacant structures frequently as the temperatures start to dip through the fall and the winter months,” said Lopez.

Authorities called the man a potential squatter and did not say if he is facing any charges.

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