Abandoned houses a headache for Fresno firefighters

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They've been putting out fires at abandoned or vacant home almost every day for the past six months. (KFSN)

Fresno firefighters are dealing with a dangerous trend. They've been putting out fires at abandoned or vacant home almost every day for the past six months. Investigators say transients are usually to blame and cold nights aren't helping.

A burning home in Southeast Fresno looked like a fireball in the fog on Friday. Neighbors witnessed people running away from the flames moments before firefighters showed up to put them out. The same people who investigators believe likely started the fire.

Battalion Chief Tony Escobedo said, "it's cold and some of these folks are trying to stay warm but the methods they use are causing fires."

Escobedo says it's been happening a lot - at least once a day. He says, transients have been breaking into abandoned property for shelter, to do drugs or to make them. The heat source gets out of control and it leaves a dangerous situation for firefighters.

"They're broken and they're fractured or they're filled with trash and drugs and syringes and a lot of biohazards," Escobedo said.

In this case, it was the second fire on the property in 3 months - both times, no one was hurt but in December, five people died in a boarded up home near cedar and McKinley Avenue.

"Our firefighters are going into these buildings at high risk to their health and safety trying to rescue some of these folks," Escobedo added.

The city is trying to help. A new code enforcement strike team has been going around, identifying the empty, abandoned and neglected homes where police and fire are getting the most calls for service. City spokesperson, Mark Standriff says there's a growing list and the property owners can face fines.

Standriff said, "we can notify those negligent property owners to say, 'listen, you're on notice now, either you clean up your property or face the charges.'"

The city says it's a measure to save lives, property and it's also a way to reclaim neighborhoods.

Related Topics:
homelessfresnofire departmentsbuilding fireFresno
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