3 arson fires leave more than a dozen homeless in Merced

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Three fires broke out overnight in Merced and investigators believe they were all intentionally set. Now more than a dozen people are displaced from their homes.

Several family members spent the morning sifting through ashes looking for any belongings that survived an overnight fire at this triplex near 8th and S streets.

"Well our clothes didn't get burned up, but everything else did," said Yulissa Estrada, 10-year-old fire victim.

Yulissa and her mother were woken up by another resident telling them this minivan was on fire in the parking lot. The flames soon spread to their building. "A police came and knocked on the door to say that we had to get out immediately because there was fire on the walls too."

Everyone made it out safely, and firefighters contained most of the damage to one unit, but a total of 14 people were displaced -- including six young children.

"Red Cross has provided care and shelter to those individuals and is currently taking care of them," said Batt. Chief Billy Alcorn, Merced Fire Department.

Alcorn says this fire started around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday -- minutes after two vehicles and a carport went up in flames less than one mile away at Canal and 9th streets. It was also threatening nearby homes.

"So within a matter of 5 minutes we had every engine in the city responding to potential structure fire incidents. We relied heavily upon Merced Co for mutual aid, and they responded and helped us out greatly," said Batt. Chief Alcorn.

But the busy morning wasn't over yet. About an hour later, a third fire charred two SUV's just a few blocks away on 12th near canal. Their owners managed to put out the flames before crews arrived. Investigators are now trying to confirm if all three incidents are connected.

"Right now the investigation team is handling that. These fires are very suspicious, the way they started are all very similar, but right now we can't tie or link them together," said Alcorn.

One woman was treated for smoke inhalation after the fire at this complex, but she is now recovering. The fire and police departments are now working together on the investigation.
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