Fire Destroys Troubled Apartment Building in Modesto

MODESTO -- An apartment building that was the subject of many health safety complaints in Modesto burned down early Tuesday.

"They got about halfway down the hallway, the ceiling started to collapse, and then the heat conditions got to the point that it wasn't safe to have them in there anymore, so we went ahead and pulled them out," Modesto Fire Division Chief Michael Lillie said.

Firefighters instead doused the flames from the outside of the Ninth Street building.

But the building was deemed unsafe even before the fire. The City of Modesto recently condemned the building after telling the owner to clean it up and shut it down.

FOX40 visited the building in July and found deplorable conditions. Units had mold, leaky pipes, rats and bed bugs.

The owner of the building opted to shut it down and evict all of his tenants.

Former residents were told to move out September 1, but firefighters say the problems continues.

"We'll come by and do the security checks. Board would be torn off. People would be living in the rooms, we would have them removed by PD, re-board the building up, and that continued to be a problem over and over," Lillie said.

The city had turned off all utilities to the building, leading investigators to believe that Tuesday's fire was human-caused.

Now the fate of the building is in the hands of Modesto's chief building official. If it's far beyond repair, he will order the entire building be demolished.

If not, the property will be fenced up, and clean up with be at the owner's expense.