MADERA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fierce flames tore through two houses on Riverview Drive in Madera Tuesday afternoon.
Both were complete losses and two other houses were damaged.
The fire ignited behind the homes in the Fresno riverbed, which is mostly dried-up brush.
Officials say the area is often occupied by homeless encampments. Wind carried smoldering embers to the neighborhood above.
"With the winds pushing out, we probably had 15-20 mph winds when the fire started," says Anthony Garcia with Madera Fire.
Swift action by firefighters -- 12 engines responded, including ones from neighboring regions including Fresno Fire, Merced County Fire and CAL FIRE.
The flames were so intense, homeowners stepped in to help.
"This one was fast-moving," says Mike Varlas. "Our neighbors, one was on our roof hosing the house down. The other was hosing the fences."
Varlas has lived in his house since the 80s and says the fire danger comes with their location.
"My wife is a firm believer in defensible spaces and I support that too, so she's out here every year with the hoe and she just takes all the brush down," he said.
The immediate neighborhood had to be evacuated and 23 homes were without power.
As many as eight people are displaced from their homes.
One firefighter suffered heat exhaustion and had to be treated. But no residents were injured.
Crews say what helped them take action quickly was the cooperation of neighbors.
"A lot of these people were ready to leave," Garcia said. "When we do ask for evacuation orders, we need everyone out of there as soon as possible, so grab whatever you can quickly, get your family out of there safely."
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