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Chief Donis: Recent Downtown Fires Have Department Stretched Thin

Jun 3, 2014

With two major fires - one at a local recycling facility and another at a downtown jewelry store - the Fresno Fire Department found its resources stretched thin in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

While crews were battling what became a five alarm blaze at the Barrios Recycling on Orange Avenue, another fire caused severe damage at Protcer's Jewelers on the Fulton Mall at Fresno Street.

Fresno Fire Chief Kerri Donis told Valley Public Radio that the effort to put down the fires took up most of the department's resources, forcing it to discontinue responses to medical emergencies for a short time. 

In addition to the Procter's fire, another blaze took place just a block away at the Helm Building. Donis says firefighters arrived at the scene and discovered a roll up door had been breached with fire in three locations, and a vandalized gas line. Donis says a working sprinkler system prevented that fire from spreading. 

The three fires on Tuesday morning are just the latest to hit the area. Last week the vacant Ace Tire building on Ventura Street was consumed by a fire just days after a blaze ripped through the former Del Monte packing house near Chukchansi Park. The cause of those fires is still under investigation. 

The recent rash of blazes comes as the department is working to rebuild after years of budget cuts, which have put a strain on aging engines and ladder trucks. In May, breakdowns hit all of the city's ladder trucks. 

According to Donis, the city's proposed budget for the new fiscal year would increase the department's minimum staffing level from 67 to 71 and purchase four new fire engines, one truck and one water tender.