Two families displaced after house fire in southeast Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Two families no longer have a place to live after a fire tore through their Fresno home late on Wednesday night.

This was the city's last structure fire of July, a month that kept firefighters and the Red Cross very busy.

Investigators say the fire started inside a vacant house, the flames quickly spreading to a home and a duplex on Mono and Sixth.

Two families were inside two separate units.

"One of them was somewhat trapped. Firefighters had to get the door unjarred to allow them to get out," said Battalion chief Randy Reitz.

The six occupants watched as their home burned - among them three children.

"You are sitting there with a family who is watching their whole world, basically everything they have worked for, memories, things that have sentimental value, pictures and hand-me-downs and everything you have worked for, burn," said Lori Wilson of the Red Cross.

The American Red Cross stepped in to assist them.

Executive Director Lori Wilson says the month of July is a busy one.

"It seems like our volunteers are being called almost daily, it is a lot," said Wilson.

The Fresno Fire Department is also swamped.

Last month they received 500 fire calls, including 30 vacant house fires and 179 grass fires. That's 12% up from last year.

Officials say Freeway fires also increased, doubling compared to June.

"What used to be a rare occurrence of going to two structure fires a day is more of a common occurrence for us now," said fire investigator Jay Tracy.

Despite the increases, structure fires are down 18% this July.

Still, fire investigator Jay Tracy said one of the biggest challenges continues to be the homeless.

Investigators say they may be to blame for the fire on Mono and Sixth.

"Several neighbors that were interviewed, reported homeless activity throughout the proceeding several weeks," Tracy said.

About half of the duplex was destroyed. Meanwhile, the home only received minor damages.

The cause is still under investigation.
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