Run of weekend fires keep crews hopping

vpatton@mercedsunstar.comMay 21, 2013 

— Merced firefighters responded to several fires over the weekend — and they say some may be the result of arson.

Firefighters said three fires reported Saturday night and early Sunday morning may have been started by the same person. The first of those fires was reported shortly after 10 p.m. Saturday on the banks of Bear Creek, in the area of West 18th Street near V Street.

The fire burned grass and vegetation, but firefighters were able to put it out relatively quickly, according to Battalion Chief Shawn Henry. No structures were damaged during the fire, which burned a 20-by-30 foot patch of vegetation.

Forty minutes later, firefighters responded to a fire inside a vacant apartment unit at 1070 W. 21st St.

Henry said that fire burned a section of carpet about 5 feet in diameter. The fire was quickly put out and no additional units were damaged. The blaze caused about $200 in damage to the room.

Around midnight Sunday, firefighters were called to a house fire at 1935 R St., near 20th Street. Henry said a vacant home had been boarded up after a previous blaze. Investigators said it seemed as if someone lit the fire near the exterior of a detached garage on the property.

The garage, a breezeway, and the interior of the roughly 1,300-square-foot main home burned. No injuries were reported, and the cost of repairs had not yet been estimated.

Firefighters believe one person may be responsible for the three fires because of their relatively close proximity to one another and the short time frame.

No suspect information is available. Anyone with information about the fires can call Merced Police Sgt. Scott Skinner at (209) 385-4702 or the department's automated tipline at (209) 385-4725.

Firefighters also responded to a house fire about 10 p.m. Friday in southeast Merced, at 2595 McElvaney Ave. They have concluded that fire was due to an electrical malfunction in the attic, and that arson wasn't a factor.

The McElvaney Avenue home was occupied by a family, and one person had to be taken to the hospital with breathing problems.

Firefighters were able to contain the fire within 20 minutes. They estimated the blaze did $20,000 in damage to the home.

City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsunstar.com.

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