Vacant building burns in central Fresno, part of spike in fires

The Fresno BeeApril 22, 2014 

Aftermath of a fire that burned in a vacant commercial building in central Fresno on Ashlan Avenue just west of Cedar Avenue on Tuesday morning, April 22, 2014.

FRESNO FIRE DEPARTMENT

Fresno firefighters fought another blaze in a vacant building Tuesday morning, part of a spike in fires around the city.

It was the 21st building fire in the city in the past two weeks -- more than a 100% increase over the previous two-week period, said Koby Johns, spokesman for the Fresno Fire Department.

Tuesday's fire started about 5:30 a.m. in a commercial building on Ashlan Avenue just west of Cedar Avenue. When firefighters arrived, flames were visible from the second story of the building, once home to an appliance store and adjacent to a recently closed liquor store, Johns said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but Johns said it's likely it was intentionally set. Firefighters said they saw people running through the parking lot, away from the fire, when they arrived, and there is some evidence homeless people may have been living in the building, Johns said. He said there were no reported injuries.

The fire, contained within a half hour, did "considerable damage," burning up about three upstairs units, although the building was slated to be demolished, Johns said.

The recent two-week stretch of 21 "working" fires -- essentially a building burnt down, Johns said -- is an extremely high number, he said. There were about 10 working fires during the previous two-week stretch.

Johns said there's no obvious trend about what caused the recent spike. A number of the fires involved vacant properties where there has been evidence of squatters living in the building, he said, but added, "that's not so much a trend -- that's always been the case."

He said the fires have been spread across the city. Johns said the 21 fires have caused about $2.1 million in damages, compared to about $500,000 damages from the working fires in the previous two-week stretch.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6386, cgeorge@fresnobee.com or @CarmenGeorge on Twitter.

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