Fire reported at abandoned Los Banos motel

March 19, 2013 

A homeless man is believed to be responsible for an abandoned motel catching fire Monday night, according to the Fire Chief.

No one was hurt in the fire.

Chet Guintini said at 10:48 p.m. his department received a report of a fire at an abandoned motel on the 1400 block of Pacheco Boulevard, behind España’s Southwest Bar & Grill. The area used to be the headquarters of town founder Henry Miller, but nothing historic is inside the motel.

Guintini said homeless people use the motel as shelter and he believes the blaze was started by one of them starting a cooking fire.

"We were told there’s a gentleman living in a front unit and he invited a guy in to talk. The guy went to the grocery store and when he came back the unit was (on fire)," Guintini said.

He said the blaze destroyed three units of the east wing of the motel. Guintini said the homeless man who he thinks set the fire fled before firefighters arrived.

Guintini said his department was at the scene of the fire for three hours with four engines, a ladder truck and an air unit. Los Banos has experienced a handful of fires at abandoned buildings, alleged to be set by the homeless, in the past year. Guintini said the owner of the motel has been involved in a lengthy process to get it demolished. He said it has proven difficult because the California Air

Quality Control Board wants certain precautions taken to protect the public against asbestos inside the building.

-- Corey Pride

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