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Two killed in Gustine house fire

GUSTINE -- Two people died Wednesday night in a house fire that was possibly arson-caused.

Sgt. Paul Roseman of the Merced County Sheriff's Department said Gustine firefighters found two bodies inside the home at 1433 Olson Drive. They are believed to be residents of that home but no positive identification was available Wednesday night.

Gustine police officers asked the Sheriff Department's Major Crimes Unit to help with the investigation in the 7:31 p.m. blaze. Sheriff's detectives were en route Wednesday night to process evidence at the scene along with Cal-Fire units.

Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin said he could neither confirm nor deny that the two fatalities were residents of the home located in an older, established neighborhood. He said officers are trying to contact family members to put together pieces of the puzzle.

"In our book, any unattended death is suspicious and we treat it accordingly," Pazin said.

Pazin was going to meet with Gustine Police Chief Kris Anderson to coordinate the investigation.

Anderson said the two bodies were unidentified Wednesday night. He said firefighters called the blaze suspicious in nature. Arson investigators from Cal-Fire and the sheriff's office would be processing the scene Wednesday night and today for evidence.

Battalion Chief Brian Neely of the Merced County Fire Department said the Olson Drive house sustained some damage but not major in the fire. About 20 firefighters were on the scene. Two Gustine Fire Department units along with county trucks from Santa Nella and Stevinson stations responded to the fire.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209 385-2485 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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