Some Clovis residents return to ruins after fire

FRESNO, Calif.

18 families had to evacuate their homes as the flames tore through the Scottsmen complex located on Willow and Gettysburg in Clovis. Many of those families can never go home.

Five of the apartments that were evacuated are still livable and we saw some families coming home Wednesday. But fences are keeping everyone else out and many have no reason to ever come back.

A missing mirror reflects the worst of the damage inside the Scottsmen apartments. The two-alarm fire that burned eight units and damaged five more started in the unit just below.

Firefighters say a boy under the age of 12 used a lighter to set a blanket on fire in a bedroom and the flames spread from there. Investigators say no adults were in the room.

"I don't know in terms of adult presence if there was an adult outside the room, were they on the premises at the complex," said Clovis Fire Department spokesman Chad Fitzgerald. "I just know there wasn't an adult in the room at the time the fire actually started."

Apartment managers and contractors examined the extent of the damage Wednesday, trying to figure out how to rebuild.

Also surveying the damage was the mother of the boy accused of starting the fire. She walked away as an Action News reporter asked her questions about how it happened.

Fire investigators say there was no criminal intent, so nobody will face criminal charges despite the massive damage.

In all, 40 residents had to leave their apartments as the fire grew.

Frank Ruvalcaba also thought his family's home was lost as he ran away.

"I actually looked in the vents up there and saw smoke coming in the vents and I said, 'Aw, I think that's it for us,'" he said.

But the next day, he and his kids returned to a home untouched by flames or even water from fire hoses.

"Everything's still good," Ruvalcaba said. "It just smells. That's it. So yeah, we're one of the lucky ones."

For now, the Red Cross is providing hotels for nine families who lost homes.

Apartment managers told Action News they have two available apartments they're trying to give to displaced residents.

The rest may be on their own to find somewhere to live.

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