Wind, Clutter Hinder Firefighters at California House Fire

Firefighters were slowed down by clutter during a house fire in Riverbank, California.
(Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District photo, Facebook)

Clutter slows firefighters at two-alarm fire in Riverbank

Lydia Gerike, The Modesto Bee


Feb. 27–Three area fire departments were called to help the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District extinguish a two-alarm house fire in Riverbank, made worse by high winds and clutter.

“This fire was difficult to access,” Battalion Chief Rick Bussell said. “There was a significant amount of household goods throughout the home that hindered our operations.”

Bussell said a resident of the home, located on the 700 block of Park Ridge Court, reported the fire around 12:30 p.m.

Investigators believe the fire began in or around a fireplace on the top floor of the tri-level home, Bussell said. The location of the fire paired with clutter in the home made it difficult for firefighters to get to the flames.

“We find this common in older houses, where maybe folks have lived there their entire lives, and with the construction and remodels and additions that have happened over the years, the household goods just accumulate,” Bussell said.

Heat from the fire caused the home’s windows to break. High winds, which the National Weather Service Sacramento said reached up to 38 mph in the Modesto area by late Saturday afternoon, coming through the broken windows created a wind tunnel that further complicated efforts to extinguish the fire.

Units from the Modesto, Ceres and Escalon fire departments were called to assist in case the wind caused the fire to spread quicker than Stanislaus Consolidated could handle by itself.

“With wind-driven fires, they spread exponentially faster,” Bussell said.

Most of the fire damage was sustained on the top floor, but the rest of the house also has smoke and heat damage, Bussell said.


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