‘Guardian angels’ help Fresno homeowner repair garage damaged by hit-and-run driver

A homeowner living paycheck to paycheck in downtown Fresno called police officers and firefighters her “guardian angels” Saturday after they helped her repair a garage damaged by a hit-and-run driver.

A pickup drove through an alleyway around 7:30 a.m. and careened into a detached garage filled with squatters behind Epifinia Garcia’s home on the 200 block of North Mariposa Street, east of Fresno Street, Fresno police Sgt. Paul Preston said. None of the squatters were injured, and they and the driver fled.

Officers noticed the garage wasn’t structurally sound after the truck was pulled out of the garage, and they asked Fresno Fire Department’s urban search and rescue team to evaluate it, Preston said.

Firefighters told Garcia that the garage would have to be temporarily reinforced, Fresno fire spokesman Paul Garnier said.

She told firefighters that she couldn’t afford the repairs as she was on a fixed income and didn’t have homeowner’s insurance because vagrants keep squatting in the garage, Garnier said. The Home Depot near the intersection of Kings Canyon Road and Chestnut Avenue donated the lumber needed to repair the garage after officers explained Garcia’s situation.

The firefighters volunteered to use their skills in shoring up buildings on an emergency basis to partially rebuild the garage, Garnier said. Garcia’s puppy was rescued inside the garage unscathed as they were clearing debris.

Garcia said she was grateful for the work firefighters and the officers did, saying they went above and beyond their usual line of work.

Paul Schlesinger: 559-441-6659, @PaulSch_Photog