Fire destroys Winton apartment complex, dozens left homeless

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The fire started in two apartments just before 7 a.m. Friday and ultimately spread to the entire complex. Firefighters say it's a total loss. (KFSN)

Massive flames ripped through an apartment complex Friday in Winton, tearing through all 18 units.

The fire started in two apartments on Walnut Avenue just before 7 a.m. and ultimately spread to the entire complex. Firefighters say it's a total loss.

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The fire has burned all 18 units at the complex and is right across from an elementary school.

Yomayra Valencia was sleeping when flames took over this apartment complex across from Crookham Elementary School in Winton.

Her daughter woke her up and they rushed outside.

"I lost everything," she said. "I don't have nothing, all I have is my kids I have nothing."

Hurrying back to the fire, Valencia ran to help an elderly neighbor who had trouble walking.

"She's an older lady I got her out," she said. "And she's sick and I asked someone to call the ambulance for her."

CalFire says the fire started on the west side of the complex and spread quickly to the rest of the building.

The wind, a ruptured gas line and a lack of fire walls in the attics helped fuel the flames.

The fire caused more than $1 million in damage and displaced 60 people.

Fire officials say the devastation can be seen in the charred belongings that remain.

"They don't have anything else they don't have the insurance don't have the money they literally lost their life savings and everything else in these apartments so it's a hard one for us," Glenda Leonard with CalFire said.

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The fire started in two apartments just before 7 a.m. Friday and ultimately spread to the entire complex. Firefighters say it's a total loss.

During the height of the fire, Crookham Elementary School, located across the street, was temporarily placed on lockdown so children and staff could stay away from the thick smoke.

The school cafeteria was opened for people to take shelter.

The district brought in counselors to help families cope as many of the fire victims have children who attend the school.

"We've offered up our cafeteria here for those being displaced by the fire the red cross has stepped up and helped as well and they're trying to find hotels for them," superintendent Randall Heller said. "But if they don't they can obviously stay here tonight."

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As construction crews boarded up and fenced the complex, fire crews showed up for a second time to put out hot spots that could be spotted seeping out of the roof.

It's not something Herman Mackey wanted to see again as he stood, leaning on his truck, staring in disbelief at what was once his home.

"We don't have a place to stay anymore," he said. "I've heard people having fires, losing property but I never dreamed it would be me."

Neither did his wife, Sheila.

"There's nothing," she said. "There's nothing to get in to get, yeah, starting all over."

Merced County Human Services agency says it handed out 11 housing vouchers to those who needed a place to stay.

"To have that many people displaced to have 60-odd people displaced, that's pretty serious," agency member Scott Pettygrove explained.

The Red Cross staged a temporary shelter the elementary school for the families affected.

Volunteers say numerous donations from people in the community were brought in.

"And when it's this seamless, it's like just kind of make you speechless," volunteer Debbie Dailey said. "It's good cause I can look over and you don't see clients hanging around they're healing."

And the healing continued over at the motel where many of those displaced were staying, like Myra Padilla.

She had her trunk filled with boxes of food that she and her neighbors put together to help those who are now left without a home.

"I put myself in their situation," she said. "I would imagine if they have children they have nothing to feed them. It's crazy."
Related Topics:
newsapartment firemerced countyWinton
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