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Contra Contra Fire Investigators Believe Martinez Blaze Set By Squatters

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Crews battle a house fire in Martinez (CBS)

Crews battle a house fire in Martinez (CBS)

HollyQuan20100908_KCBS_0017r Holly Quan
Holly was born and raised in Oakland and she graduated from San...
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MARTINEZ (KCBS) – Contra Costa County fire officials are seeing a dangerous trend of squatters starting fires in foreclosed houses they have broken into.

On Monday night, a one-alarm fire at 401 H St., which was thought to be vacant, caused thousands of dollars in damage.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

Contra Costa Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Terry Stewart said they are seeing more fires like this started by people living illegally in foreclosed homes, upping the risk for firefighters.

“People will break into them and they’re quiet about it,” Stewart said. “They’ll sneak into a house. Neighbors clearly don’t have a clue what may or may not be inside the house, or the condition of the person that’s living there at that time. It does pose some risk and threats for the fire department.”

Luis, a homeless man who lives in his car, won’t justify squatting.

“The problem is the homeless people. Something has to be done,” he said. “We’ve got to do something for them because they’re not doing it for themselves.”

With some predicting that this could be the worst fire season in 20 years in the Bay Area, Stewart said the problem with squatters and department cutbacks could lead to the perfect storm for a disaster.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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