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Fire displaces several Merced tenants

Several Merced families were displaced from their homes Thursday, after an early morning blaze at an apartment complex.

Investigators say no one was hurt in the fire, which may have been started by a space heater.

Merced Fire Chief Ken Mitten said firefighters responded to the blaze at 5 West 25th St. after receiving a 3:26 a.m. alarm. The complex, which consists of two separate buildings of five units each, was mostly unoccupied by the time firefighters arrived at the scene.

The fire started in a unit in the west building, completely gutting the apartment. It also spread to the east building, destroying about two-thirds of that building’s attic. The fire was brought under control at 4:02 a.m.

Mitten said about six children and 12 adults were displaced by the fire. Eight of the building’s 10 units had tenants. Firefighters spread throughout the complex, confirming that all of the building’s occupants had escaped. “It's one of those fires where you have so many people threatened,” Mitten said. “When you get a lot of people, because of the units, we call a lot of extra people in.”

Merced police, PG&E and staff from the city’s inspection agency also arrived at the scene. Due the the fire damage, Mitten said both buildings have been designated as uninhabitable and are now closed.

Those who were displaced are being helped by the Fresno-Madera Counties Chapter of the Red cross, family members or the Merced County Department of Human Services, Mitten said.

Mitten said 25 firefighters, five engine companies and a truck company responded to the scene.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or