Home for struggling veterans goes up in flames

FRESNO, Calif.

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Fire investigators have determined the cause of the fire was electrical and started in the attic.

Six veterans who lived at this transitional home are now at another nearby veterans home, that is able to accommodate all of them for now.

Victor Mejia is a Vietnam Vet who decided after looking at the damage to find the positive among all the dark destruction. "Good thing it happened in the daytime and not at night. Cause somebody passing by is the one that told us about it."

Mejia moved in here less than a week ago to recover after a surgery. He had not even moved in completely when he found himself rushing out Tuesday afternoon. "I was just starting to settle in and now I gotta start all over."

Firefighters say the shake portion of the roof fueled the huge flames. At one point, fire crews had to leave the home because a saggy air conditioner threatened the structure.

"Nobody likes to pull out from a good fight but you gotta follow orders and do what you gotta do and that's just the way it went down today." Rich Willard said.

Six veterans of all ages who served in different wars live in the home as part of a homeless veterans program. It is organized and run by the Veterans Administration. Residents have lived here from several days up to a year.

At least one witness says he watched one resident go back inside several times trying to save anything he could carry out from the destructive flames.

"He was just frantic about getting his stuff, all of his computer equipment. So he was running in and out of the house back and forth even after we told him the fire department is on its way and he needed to stay out," said Daniel Torres. "He kept going in, even when the firemen got here he kept going in and he had to remove them from the house."

Tuesday afternoon, as firefighters mopped up, VA officials already set up a new place for the veterans to live.

The home is a complete loss. What didn't burn was seriously damaged by water. The home did have a sprinkler system, but it didn't help much in this situation because the fire spread through the attic.

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