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Fire destroys Leo Avenue church building
• Five adults, 5 kids displaced
Leo Avenue fire
Firefighters battle Saturday's fire at a Latino church at 1102 Leo Avenue in south Modesto.

A Saturday afternoon fire ripped through a Leo Avenue church building home to five adults and five children but all made their way to safety.

The fire broke out at around 2:40 p.m. at 1102 Leo Avenue, a defunct church last used by Iglesia Apostolica de la fe en Cristo Jesus USA. Ceres Fire Department, along with resource sharing partners Modesto Fire Department, was dispatched and needed to call for water tenders from Hughson and Woodland Avenue Fire Districts to assist because of the inadequate supply of water hydrants in the unincorporated area.

Battalion Chief Jeff Serpa said that the eastern portion of the building was occupied by a living room, dining room, kitchen and four bedrooms.

Firefighters aboard Ceres Engine 16 arrived to find smoke and flames coming from the building and launched an offensive interior attack. The building was searched to ensure all had made their way outside and vertical ventilation were completed, but the fire extended throughout the attic of the church, causing firefighters to be called out of the building. 

“The challenge was the fire was up in the attic and the ceiling inside the church was tongue and groove and it was 12-foot-high ceilings so trying to get through the ceilings to get to the fire was the challenge,” said Ceres Fire Chief Kevin Wise.

Second and third alarms called in firefighters from Stanislaus Consolidated and Modesto fire departments. 

Firefighters changed from an offensive interior attack to a defensive attack using large exterior hoses and aerial waterways. Minutes after firefighters were called out of the building the roof collapsed.

The Stanislaus Regional Fire Investigation Unit is investigating the cause and origin of the fire.

The American Red Cross helped provide emergency housing for the 10 persons living in the structure.

A total of 15 units and 50 personnel were involved in the call.