Two teens set to graduate from Buhach Colony High School took it upon themselves Wednesday to fight a fire in Atwater and save an elderly dog.
Nathan Gutierrez and Andrew Schoppe, both 18, were headed home from school about 12:40 p.m. when they saw a fire burning in front of a home in the 4400 block of Buhach Road. They saw flames in a front yard and hopped out of the car to put them out.
Gutierrez grabbed a water hose and tried to put out the flames while Schoppe carried an elderly pit bull from the backyard. The high school seniors said no one answered the door to the home and the windows were covered.
The flames traveled up to the top of 30-foot conifers in the yard as firefighters arrived shortly to put out the fire, burning in triple-digit heat.
Two sheds and two vehicles were damaged by flames. No injuries were reported. Atwater and Merced County firefighters put out the fire by 1:15 p.m.
“Had the wind been blowing, we could’ve had a totally different story,” said Atwater police Sgt. Dick Wisdom.
Students were leaving Buhach Colony High School for the day when the fire started.
The intersection of Juniper Avenue and Buhach Road was briefly closed to traffic.
Wisdom said Atwater fire crews were able to respond quickly and help contain the fire since the station is down the road.
Jeremy Rahn, battalion chief for the Merced County Fire Department, said one house fared well because it had a tile roof and there was no dry vegetation nearby. Rahn emphasized the importance of clearing debris, brush and dry grass around homes to reduce fire fuel. The best time to clear debris is before 10 a.m., he said, when the heat begins to set in.
Homes on Buckeye Lane also were threatened by the fire where vegetation clearance was an issue, but fire crews were sent to protect them.
Fifteen firefighters battled the fire. The Atwater Fire Department sent a ladder truck and an engine and Merced County sent three engines and a water tender.
The cause of the fire was under investigation Wednesday. A damage estimate was not available. No injuries were reported.