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Three people displaced in Merced house fire

Three displaced in Merced house fire

Fire raced through a garage early Friday, gutting part of a home on the northern outskirts of Merced and displacing three people, including an elderly couple. Rob Parsons/rparsons@mercedsunstar.com
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Fire raced through a garage early Friday, gutting part of a home on the northern outskirts of Merced and displacing three people, including an elderly couple. Rob Parsons/rparsons@mercedsunstar.com

Fire raced through a garage early Friday, gutting part of a home on the northern outskirts of Merced and displacing three people, including an elderly couple.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Merced County, firefighters responded about 6 a.m. to a report of flames coming from a home in the 4500 block of Highway 59, just north of Tahoe Street and just outside Merced’s city limit, Battalion Chief Mark Pimentel said.

The flames were contained to the garage area, but the rest of the home sustained significant smoke and heat damage. Pimentel stopped short of calling the house a total loss, but said “extensive work” would be needed to make it habitable.

“We were able to get the three people evacuated and they’ll stay with other family members,” the battalion chief said.

Homeowner Shong Lee said his parents and brother were displaced, but will stay with family members. His mother is in her 80s and his father in his 90s, he said, noting that it was fortunate other people were staying in the home for the Thanksgiving holiday. He said his brother-in-law helped the elderly couple escape the flames without injuries.

“We had probably at least 15 people, family, all here for Thanksgiving,” he said, adding that his parents have lived in the home since the early 1990s. “It’s good that a lot of family were here for the weekend and everybody is OK.”

Lee said his mother “felt heat” sometime just before 6 a.m. and opened the door to the garage.

“She said it was all flames, all burning,” Lee said.

A total of 15 firefighters responded to the blaze, 10 Cal Fire firefighters and five paid volunteers from Merced County. Pimentel said firefighters had extinguished the blaze by about 9 a.m., though a few firefighters remained on scene to mop up hot spots.

Lee’s family spent Friday morning cleaning up the damage, sorting possessions and preparing a plan to take care of his parents.

Pimentel said the American Red Cross also would provide help.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation Friday afternoon. A total damage estimate was not available.

Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482

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