Hard to reach suspicious house fire in Central Fresno

FRESNO, Calif.

The blaze started shortly before 2:00 p.m. Friday afternoon in the back of a house on Hampton Way.

It took crews longer than normal to get there because Ashlan between Palm and Fruit is closed for construction.

A sheriff's deputy said when he pulled up the neighbors were screaming and flames were shooting from the back of the house. Even before today, deputies say this home has been an ongoing problem.

It took about 30 minutes for fire crews to contain the flames at this home. Deputies say it was abandoned but still used for illegal activity.

Freddie Henson with the Fresno County Sheriff's Office said, "This house wasn't a squatting house, people didn't move in there but it was abandoned. But people would break in at night when people were asleep and they would light candles and that's why they don't know how the fire started yet today."

Friday afternoon investigators talked to neighbors to see if anyone noticed activity at the home or anyone leaving the area when the fire started. But trash and debris fill the front and backyard and with overgrown landscaping, it is difficult to see the actual home.

Lawrence French with the Fresno Fire Department said, "It appears it may have started in the rear, in the yard, the backyard then spread to the eaves and the attic space of the building as well as the occupancy space."

Fire investigators say the home is still furnished and did not have power when the blaze broke out. There does not appear to be any ignition source that was obvious to firefighters right away.

Deputies say, until she moved out, the homeowner used the front and backyards to collect junk and recyclables.

"She basically ran a recycling facility, there was shopping carts and trash," said Henson. "They'd go around and steal things from trash cans and from stores and peoples yards and they basically would take what was worth money metal wise and recycle it and leave the garbage behind in the yard."

Firefighters say it took at least four minutes longer to get here because the streets are blocked off in the area.

So far, no witnesses have come forward with any information to help investigators. Damages are estimated to be $75,000.00.

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