Many emergency service calls had already come through Sunday night, making it a long night for responding emergency service personnel. But fire crews said they anticipated the house to burn at the Mahaffey property site, making their jobs easier to conduct when the time came.
Patterson and West Stanislaus Fire Protection Division Chief Jeff Gregory, who lives in the housing subdivision directly to the south of the area, was the Incident Commander for the fire.
“We knew what we were going to do. We had a plan in case it happened,” Chief Gregory said. “Our main concern with this, and it’s been our main concern, is the houses to the south of [the site].”
The first of the two responding fire engines worked on the fire, while Engine No. 11 and an additional truck were positioned on Kirkwall Way in the housing subdivision directly to the south of Sperry Avenue in order to provide protection to the threatened neighborhood.
“There was a lot of hot stuff floating over and getting into the trees,” Chief Gregory said, noting that one resident was putting out hot embers with a garden hose before they arrived. “(The residents) were a big help,” he said.
Back on Sperry Avenue, firefighters operating the deck gun on top of Engine No. 1 began using a technique called a water curtain to push the hot embers back from the street and any occupied homes.
The fire was under control in about 20 minutes, although crew members were unable to leave the scene for two hours. No injuries occurred and no damage to the adjacent neighborhood have been reported.
Patterson code enforcement officer Hugo Rayo was busy the next morning placing cautionary fire tape across the gaping holes left on the remnants of the old farm house.
By Monday afternoon, the house that once stood as a reminder of the city’s rich apricot farming legacy was reduced to a pile of burnt ash and boards after the property owners razed its remnants with a bulldozer.
Patterson fire crews had responded to a similar incident at the same location only three weeks prior when a garage behind the house suspiciously went up in flames the night of Friday, May 23.
The cause of Sunday night’s fire has yet to be determined, but has also been deemed suspicious considering that no gas or electrical utilities are connected to the property. However, area transients have been known to make small fires in the home for heat or to cook food, according to Chief Gregory.
Elias Funez can be reached at 209-892-6187 or firstname.lastname@example.org.