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Residents evacuated from complex during fire

One unit of an eight-unit apartment complex was gutted by fire early Wednesday afternoon in a blaze thought to be an accident. No one was injured in the 12:33 p.m. fire that did $50,000 damage to the apartments at 151 W. 18th St., Merced Fire Chief Ken Mitten said.

Arriving firefighters saw light to heavy smoke. The apartment, occupied by Timothy Boldroff, Geri Fontano and a 16-month-old, was heavily damaged by the fire, Mitten said. The other seven units in the complex were deemed safe to occupy after the fire. The American Red Cross assisted Boldroff, Fontano and the baby.

The fire, which reached second-alarm status, was declared under control in 14 minutes. Fifteen firefighters in four engines battled the fire in the single-story apartment complex.

Lt. Floyd Higdon of the Merced Police Department said Parking Enforcement Officer Virginia Gonzales was traveling westbound on 18th Street when two pedestrians motioned to her and told her an apartment building was on fire. She then alerted dispatchers who summoned firefighters.

Hattie Moss, a 90-year-old resident, and Ignacio Rodriguez, an elderly resident of another apartment, were helped by officers out of their units to across the street. The other four units in the building were found to be empty at the time of the fire, Higdon said.

Mitten said Rodriguez was taken to the Community Campus of Mercy Medical Center Merced for observation.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209-385-2485 or