Visalia Firefighters save home

Onlookers using hoses and shovels Tuesday helped keep an east Visalia grass fire in check until firefighters arrived.

Construction workers Robert Zepeda, 29, and Abel Gonzales, 35, were remodeling a home in the 2800 block of Goshen Avenue near Lovers Lane when the fire broke out about 1:15 p.m. Zepeda stationed himself at the northeast corner of the property and kept flames away from a fence with a hose, while Gonzales kept flames from leaping to Goshen Avenue.

“We heard popping and crackling in the back, and then saw flames coming right at us,” Zepeda said. “We grabbed [garden] hoses and boom-boom-boom, did what we could.”

Ashley Willingham lives in the home being worked on by the men.

“Thank you for saving my house!” she said.

Ben Boonstra of Visalia, who was passing by in his pickup, stopped and helped shovel out a firebreak after calling 911. An off-duty firefighter from Springville also stopped to help, Boonstra said.

Visalia Fire Department Capt. Darrin Hughes said such help from citizens is welcome, but that caution and common sense should prevail.

“They did the right thing, and they called 911 first before grabbing a hose,” Hughes said. “But if the fire gets too big, just get the heck out of there.”

A fence just to the west of Willingham’s house was blackened, but the two homes nearby were untouched by flames, witnesses and firefighters reported.

The fire may be connected to a nearby utility pole and an old irrigation pump connected to it, said Charlie Norman, battalion chief for the Visalia Fire Department.
Story and Photo by Visalia Times / News-tip submitted by anonymous

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