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By Casey Christie / The Californian
BY REBECCA KHEEL Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
A fire fully scorched a vacant house while three others had varying degrees of damage Thursday afternoon in east Bakersfield.
Two firefighters were injured while combating the two-alarm fire in the 1300 block of Niles Street that garnered the response of both the Bakersfield and Kern County fire departments. One suffered an ankle injury, and the other suffered burns to his neck, said Battalion Chief Ross Kelly of the Bakersfield Fire Department. Both injuries were considered mild to moderate.
The Bakersfield Fire Department responded to the call at 4:51 p.m. When firefighters arrived, the house the fire started at was fully engulfed, and the fire had spread to 50 percent of the next-door house on the east. The radiant heat from the fire started charring the side of the house to the west, and a detached garage converted to a residence was threatened.
Firefighters established a line and protected the house to the west from further damage and the garage in the rear from any damage, Kelly said.
Two palms trees in front of the first house also caught fire.
"The palm trees were raining embers," Kelly said.
The embers floated to the intersection of Niles and Haley streets and sparked some small grass fires. The grass fires were quickly squelched, Kelly said.
Fighting the blaze was complicated by a broken gas line that fed a section of the fire and downed power lines in the backyard.
Thirty-six firefighters got the whole fire under control in 12 minutes, Kelly said.
The house the fire started at is vacant. The three others had people living in them. But Kelly did not know if they were there at the time of the fire.
Total damage is estimated at $200,000.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, Kelly said.
Matthew Ybarra, 19, who lives two houses down from where the fire started, was in the shower at the time. When he got out, he smelled smoke and ran outside before even putting on a shirt, he said. His brother started spraying the next-door house's roof with a garden hose, while Ybarra made sure all his sister's children got out of his house.
Ybarra said he has seen people going in and out of the vacant house even after the former occupants moved out.
He's thankful, he said, his house didn't get swept up in the flames.
"I feel so bad for my neighbors," he said.