Firefighters were dispatched at 10:31 p.m. to the house at 1420 Martha St., arriving with three engines and a rescue vehicle, said Division Chief Jeff Breasher of the West Stanislaus County Fire Protection District.
“We spent so much energy trying to get it under control,” Breasher said of the blaze, noting that firefighters were on the scene until about 3:30 a.m. to ensure the fire remained extinguished.
The fire appears to have started inside the front room but spread into the attic, Breasher said. He called the fire "suspicious," saying electricity inside the house had been turned off for about a year prior to the fire and no one was living there, though squatters may have inhabited the residence.
A power line that ran above the house started arcing, and firefighters told residents to back away from a power pole across the street from the house, as it was connected to that line.
Area resident Gregory Topete said he noticed the lights were flickering and decided to go outside to see what had happened, as there was no thunderstorm to cause the wavering lights. When he arrived, he said he noticed smoke and flames that slowly appeared to be spreading up the front wall, he said.
Breasher said the arcing of the power line likely created the popping noise heard by Topete and other area residents.
Though neighbors reported that a dog had been penned up in the backyard of the home, a neighbor had apparently set the dog loose before firefighters arrived, Breasher said.
The fire remains under investigation by the City of Modesto’s Fire Prevention Bureau.