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Vacant house fire deemed suspicious
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If the vacant house that developed into a Monday evening inferno hadn't been boarded up so well, Ceres firefighters may have been inside when the roof collapsed.

"It's very good thing," said Ceres Fire Batallion Chief Mike Lillie of the circumstances that delayed an entry into the burning structure. "It was a tile roof so there was a lot of weight associated with the roof and there would have been some serious injuries."

The roof collapse on the Service Road property - pegged for the development of the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center - occurred as firefighters were removing boards to enter the fully involved fire.

Nobody was injured in the incident, said Lillie, which was dispatched at 9:16 p.m.

The vacant structure, located in the 2800 block of Service Road west of Mitchell Road, was scheduled to be demolished once Walmart gets the legal clearance to build its Supercenter. Little said the fire started suspiciously and tents and sleeping bags were indications that homeless people were squatters behind the structure. Nobody was seen leaving the property before the fire broke out, however.

The house was partially made of cinder blocks. Lillie reported that "everything made of wood burned away."

Police blocked off Service Road between Mitchell and Moffet roads to allow firefighters to fight the blaze.

The house was well-boarded with 2x6s bolted from the inside. The difficulty of entering postponed entry and ultimately spared fire crews from being inside during the roof failure. Instead the attack was made from an aerial ladder spray, said Lillie.

Some of the 10 firefighters responding to the fire actually made entry once the roof fell in.

Firefighters cleared the scene at 12:05 a.m. Tuesday morning.