Several homeless after blaze destroys house

One man was injured and three families were left without shelter when an apparent arson gutted a home Friday afternoon in the 600 block of Empire Avenue in the airport neighborhood of Modesto.

Modesto police were pursuing leads that the fire possibly resulted from a dispute between a woman who lived in the home and her boyfriend. Fire investigators found evidence that multiple fires were set inside the home, said Battalion Chief Hugo Patino of Modesto Fire Department.

Seven adults and nine children were living in the rental home. Several of them were at a nearby park about 1:15 p.m. when they saw smoke coming from the house.

Marcus Naylor, 27, sustained superficial burns to an elbow when he tried to rescue a dog and puppies trapped by the fire. A dog and three puppies died in the blaze; a fifth dog was able to escape, authorities said.

Naylor was injured as he tried to rescue the dogs from a washroom. He told authorities that, as he opened an outside door to the room, he was hit with a blast of heat. He also suffered smoke inhalation.

Modesto firefighters arrived at the scene at 1:23 p.m., finding flames and smoke pouring from the windows, Patino said. The fire was contained by 1:32 p.m.

Patino said the occupants of the home were referred to the Red Cross for assistance.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at or 578-2321.