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Bizarre fire due to arson, investigators say

Merced police and fire investigators say a strange house fire at 1548 Massasso Court late Thursday is probably the handiwork of an arsonist.

Lt. Bimley West of the Merced Police Department said firefighters from the Merced Fire Department and police arrived at the residence around 10 p.m. and found piles of clothing and other items on fire in three separate locations inside the house.

West said firefighters were able to put out the fire, which caused about $50,000 in damage – mainly from smoke. No one was inside the house during the fire, West said, although investigators believe the fire wasn’t an accident. No one was hurt in the fire.

Police are asking anyone with information about the crime to step forward. "This could have ended up where lives were in jeopardy," West said.

West said the house is being foreclosed upon, although there are people still living there.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Dave Alcaraz at (209) 385-4708. You can also call the department's anonymous tip-line at (209) 385-4725.