Fresno police and fire department are investigating a blaze that erupted in an apparent abandoned house in the 400 block of North Poplar Avenue near downtown Fresno Wednesday morning that displaced 12 occupants.
The blaze erupted in the back of the house about 7 a.m., according to Battalion Chief Brian Price, who said improper wiring is one possible cause of the blaze. Price added that there were “several other activities,” taking place at the house, “by people apparently not authorized to be there.”
There were signs on the outside of the home that indicated that it was not to be occupied. However, Price said there was a sign inside that said residents were welcome. The exact status of the home is part of the investigation.
People who lived in the house stood on the street after the fire, some weeping. Brian Dixon, who said he was in charge of the residents, blamed a man he called Nate for starting the fire by throwing a cigarette butt in a pile of debris.
“Nate’s gone,” said Dixon. “I don’t know where the hell he went...He didn’t do it on purpose.”
Dixon said he lived in a shed in the back.
“I let the inmates stay inside,” he said, elaborating that he was referring to “people with disabilities, have Social Security and mental issues.”
Dixon said the man who originally started housing the residents recently died of a heart attack, and he had taken over.
“I was asked here to do the contracting and then (the house) fell into my lap.
“I had the tool shed,” Dixon said. “I had a TV, water, everything...(but) I lost everything, shoes, tools, wallet – everything is gone.”
Neighbors along Poplar complained about constant traffic in and out of the house at all hours of the day and night.
“My dad said this (the fire) was going to happen,” said Marisala Chavez, who lives with her family next door.
She said her family often has their sleep interrupted by people “arguing and throwing things at one another.”
Before, she added, “It was always quiet.”