Reporting Nick Janes
COLFAX (CBS13) – A vacant home in Colfax went up in flames Tuesday, and it didn’t come as a surprise to neighbors who say it’s been a trouble spot ever since it went vacant about a year ago.
A man wearing a red hoodie became the center of attention once the fire was out. Was he a suspect or a good Samaritan?
Firefighters spotted him hanging around near the vacant Colfax home just off Main Street and wanted to know what he was doing there.
“We started doing some initial questioning and he indicated he had some belongings in there and so forth,” Cal Fire Battalion Chief Doug Pinella said.
It turns out, the guy explained, his backpack was inside. The man’s story went something like this: He’d seen the fire and went in to try and put it out, leaving his pack inside in the process.
As sheriff’s deputies questioned him repeatedly, neighbors told CBS13 the boarded-up, government-owned home was popular with squatters.
“I know that this door is back open again. Cops come and close it all up and it’s back open,” Cheline Flippin said.
“Somebody (has been living there), but you never see them and I’m in and out of here all the time.”
Investigators believe a homeless person sleeping inside may have started the fire. But as for the guy questioned Tuesday, he stuck to his story, was treated for burns to his hands and, at least initially, authorities said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him in connection with the fire.
The home is a complete loss, with damage estimated at $120,000. It’s unclear if it’ll be rebuilt or torn down.