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Suspicious fires under investigation

Firefighters keep busy with three calls in 24 hours

Suspicious fires under investigation

A fire at 208 Locust was just one of three blazes firefighters had to battle this week in Turlock. Two of the fires, including this one, were at vacant homes and are under investigation.


POSTED December 18, 2009 10:37 p.m.
Two of three residential fires reported in Turlock over the last week have suspicious origins and are under investigation by the Turlock City Fire Department.
The two suspicious fires were both in vacant residences, one of which was the site of an arrest hours before the fire erupted.
Around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday the Turlock Police Department received calls from residents in the 200 block of Florence Street stating several subjects were removing items from the house at 276 Florence. The home is the last location the City of Turlock needed to acquire to clear the way for the Public Safety Facility and the residents had moved out last week. The callers said several men could be seen at the house removing the doors and siding and riding away with the items on their bicycles, Turlock Police Lt. Steven Williams said.
When officers arrived they found one individual, Marion Phillips, 53, and arrested him on a felony warrant, Williams said.
Shortly after midnight Wednesday, a Turlock police officer was driving by the residence and saw flames shooting out of the home.
Three fire engines and 11 firefighters arrived at the scene to find a fully engulfed fire and quickly started dousing the 60-feet plus flames, Battalion Chief Gary Lunsford said.
The fire took over an hour to completely extinguish and the home was a total loss.
Fire Marshall Mark Gomez said the fire was suspicious and the cause is still under investigation.
The Turlock Police Department said a stolen car was found across the street from the residence and that arson is suspected.
The second fire broke out around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at a vacant home at 208 Locust Street.
Fire personnel arrived to find heavy smoke billowing from the basement of the two-story house, Lunsford said. Firefighters searched the home for possible victims but found none.
All four city fire engines and 15 firefighters responded to the fire, which took more than an hour to control because of the basement’s construction and the amount of furniture and debris left in the house.
The fire burned the entire basement and extended to some parts of the first floor.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation and the fire department is looking to see if there is any connection to the fire on Florence, Gomez said.
The third fire was started in a stove in the 1800 block of El Camino Drive. The residents reported the fire just after 9 p.m. Wednesday.
The fire damaged the stove and spread to some cabinets, but was under control within eight minutes of the fire department’s arrival, Lunsford said.
Three fire engines and 15 firefighters responded to the fire. There were no injuries and the residents were not displaced from their home.
Whatever caused the fire to spark is under investigation, but prior to the stove igniting, the oven had been in self-cleaning mode.
Anyone with information on the fires at the two vacant residences is asked to call the fire department at 668-5580 or the police department at 668-5550.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.
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