FRESNO, California. (KGPE)- The Fresno Fire Department says more than 670 people have been displaced in the city as a result of blazes since the beginning of this year, including 64 just this last weekend.
The department is seeing a record number of fires overall but behind many of those house and apartment fires, there are families who are trying to move forward.
“It’s a matter of seconds. You hear that they’re knocking on your window and you wake up and you say, ‘What’s happening?’ ‘Get out because it’s burning.’ You get out and you see everything in flames, smoke,” said Indira Rodriguez, a resident at one of the apartment buildings that suffered damage due to a fire on Sunday morning.
Rodriguez describes the terrifying moments when she heard her neighbor knocking and screaming that there was a fire.
The fire on Andrews Avenue and Pleasant displaced 56 people and devastated several homes in two apartment complexes.
“Running, I started to wake up the neighbors so they could get out,” explained Edgardo Castro Gracida.
Castro Gracida says he walked out of his apartment and saw the flames, waking up Indira and his cousin Ricardo.
“Everything that’s materialistic. The TVs, the beds, the couches. We saved a little bit of clothes,” Ricardo Gracida Castro said.
Ricardo says he ran out with his family, grabbing some clothes but everything left inside is now destroyed. Edgardo and Indira’s homes, fortunately, didn’t suffer much damage.
Fresno Fire has responded to more than 550 structure fires this year, although slightly below what was reported this time last year, this is on top of vegetation fires.
In total, Fresno has seen a 36% increase compared to this time last year.
“There’s not one simple answer we’re halfway through the year, we’ve had 552 structure fires as of 4:30 this morning, not counting what’s behind me,” said Fresno Fire Public Information Officer Shane Brown.
Another structure fire broke out on Monday at a vacant house on Andrews Avenue.
“It shouldn’t be on fire. So the first thing that tells us is somebody is living there illegally,” said Brown.
But Brown says a lot of these fires happen because of accidents that happen at home.
The Red Cross has had one of its busier weekends providing shelter for residents who have been displaced by fires.
“We’ve opened two temporary evacuation points in less than 12 hours yesterday,” said Red Cross spokesperson Taylor Poisall.
And for Edgardo and his family, he says thankfully, they came out alive.
“Life is the most important.”
Brown says it’s important to mitigate the hazards inside our homes that could potentially start a fire.