An inferno raced through an abandoned Turlock factory Tuesday night, sending 75 foot flames into the night sky and giant plumes of thick smoke billowing out across the city.
The three alarm blaze at the vacated cheese factory on W. Main Street was deemed suspicious in nature and was being treated as an active crime scene, said Turlock Police Lt. Nino Amirfar.
Fire officials reported that the fire originated inside the building. The building does not have electricity to it, Amirfar said.
Witnesses reported seeing several individuals leaving from the building about the time smoke started pouring out the roof.
The fire was reported around 7:30 p.m. at 1400 W. Main Street. The site is the former home of Lactalis USA, which shuttered operations in Turlock several years ago.
The building has remained vacant and has been routinely targeted by thieves looking for copper wiring and a place for transients to stay.
The building is about 10,000 square feet and has several rooms inside it. Most of the structure is comprised of sheet rock and cinder blocks, but the fire found footing in the roof and quickly spread, eventually collapsing the roof.
Early on fire fighters deemed the inside of the structure too dangerous to breech and took to fighting the flames from the outside. Ladder trucks were used to douse the roof in three different spots.
All of the Turlock Fire Department’s engines were called to the scene, as well as assistance from the Ceres and Modesto fire departments.
It took fire fighters close to two hours to get the flames under control at the plant. Clean up was estimated to last throughout the night.
While the flames continued to burn on the inside of the building a second fire call was issued for a vacant home about two blocks away. A fire was reported around 9:30 p.m. at a home on the corner of W. Main Street and Clifford Avenue. Smoke could be seen creeping out from the boarded up windows, but no flames were visible. The Turlock Rural Fire Department responded to that fire, along with one Turlock fire engine pulled from the cheese plant.
The house, which sits next door to a church and across the street from a convalescent home, is often covered in gang graffiti.
The cause of the house fire has not been determined. The two fires do not appear to be related, according to the police department.
Traffic was diverted off Main Street at Soderquist and Tully roads for several hours.