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Merced County brush fire burns Atwater homeless encampments, fire officials say

Chimney Fire officials concerned about dry brush, hot temps

The latest on the Chimney Rock fire burning near Lake Nacimiento.
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The latest on the Chimney Rock fire burning near Lake Nacimiento.

A brush fire Monday afternoon gutted several homeless encampments in Atwater, fire officials said.

Merced County CalFire, Merced City firefighters and Atwater rushed to a vegetation fire at 2:49 p.m. in the area of Sycamore Avenue and Applegate Road, near the Highway 99 overpass, Merced County Battalion Chief Chris Bernard said.

The fire burned five acres but was nearly contained as of 4 p.m., Bernard said. Several encampments were burned, displacing homeless residents, but no injuries were reported and no structures were threatened, Bernard said.

The cause of the fire was under investigation Monday, Bernard said.

Vikaas Shanker is an award-winning reporter covering education, crime and courts for the Merced Sun-Star and Los Banos Enterprise. After growing up in Naperville, Illinois and graduating from the University of Kansas, he reported in several Chicago suburbs before moving to Merced County in 2016.
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