Firefighters battle flames in 111-degree heat in Sunday scorcher

Three-alarm fire on July 11 destroys two homes in the 1000 block of W. Clinton Ave.

VISALIA – Excessive heat on Sunday turned a structure fire into a three-alarm fire that destroyed two homes and took nearly 40 firefighters from three departments to get it under control.

On July 11, the Visalia Fire Department was dispatched to a report of two homes on fire in the 1000 block of West Clinton Avenue. Temperatures were rising and reached 111 degrees before firefighters left the scene in the midst of a heatwave singeing the nation.

“While high heat and low humidity contributed to rapid fire growth and spread, extreme temperatures contributed to added heat stress to firefighters and the need for additional crews to prevent heat exhaustion,” Battalion Chief Derek Fricke said. “Visalia’s Breathing Support and Rehab unit responded to provide additional shade, water, and cooling fans for firefighters.”

When the first crew of firefighters left the station at about 10:30 a.m. they could already see a significant smoke column and called for a second alarm fire en route. The first engine to arrive reported heavy fire located on the east side of one home with flames reaching a second home directly to the east. Even with 24 firefighters, six engines, one ladder truck, two battalion chiefs, the fire chief, and the breathing support at the scene it wasn’t enough to keep firefighters from rotating in and out to avoid heat exhaustion.

A third alarm was called and the Tulare County Fire Department responded with three engines and eight firefighters and the Farmersville Fire Department sent a ladder truck and five firefighters bringing the total number of firefighters to 37.

“In addition to responding agencies the Tulare City Fire Department and Cal Fire provided cover engines for the city of Visalia until off duty Visalia Fire personnel staffed one additional engine along with an off-duty Visalia Battalion Chief,” Fricke added.

The fire was controlled in approximately 40 minutes., followed by several hours of scene overhaul and investigation. Visalia Fire units cleared at approximately 4:30 p.m. There were no injuries to civilians, however one firefighter suffered a minor burn due to the extreme radiant heat generated from the fire. Initially there was a report of a possible occupant still inside one of the homes but they were found shortly after fire crews began a rapid search of the rear portions of the structure.

“As the search was progressing, the occupant was located by his family member standing on the street observing the fire,” Fricke said.

The initial investigation appears that the fire was unintentional pending further follow up but VFD did not that “extreme weather temperatures” contributed to the severity of the fire.

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