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Questions remain about cause of fire at old home at Sunrise/Oak

Old home, Sunrise, Oak, Citrus Heights
An old home at the intersection of Sunrise Boulevard and Oak Avenue was damaged by a fire on June 15, 2017. // Citrus Heights Sentinel

Sentinel staff report–
What was once a charming craftsman cottage built in the early 1900’s is now a fenced off home on Sunrise Boulevard that’s partially boarded up and declared unsafe to occupy.

Following an investigation into the cause of a blaze that crippled the vacant home at the intersection of Oak Avenue and Sunrise Boulevard two months ago, questions still remain for both Metro Fire investigators and nearby residents.

“It’s been determined to be human caused, but unknown intent,” Fire Captain Chris Vestal told The Sentinel last week. Asked if the fire had been classified as arson, he said it didn’t meet the definition because the intent is unknown.

“Arson requires an intent to cause fire,” the captain said. “What this means is that it wasn’t a mechanical failure of a refrigerator motor or that it wasn’t faulty wiring, but a condition that was caused by the act of a person, but we are unable to determine why that act was done.”

A neighbor, who preferred to only give her first name for safety concerns, told The Sentinel on Thursday that the vacant house had become a magnet for homeless in recent months, after renters had left a few months before the fire occurred.

She said several nights before the fire, a “really crazy” woman who appeared to be under the influence of drugs had knocked on her door and mentioned “they said they were going to do something bad,” apparently in reference to homeless individuals staying at the vacant home.

Fire Captain Brian Gonsalves, who was on scene at the time of the fire on June 15, confirmed on Friday that it appeared the home “had been abandoned and there had been transients living on the property.” He described the home as having suffered mostly interior damage, which officials previously said caused about $100,000 in property damage.

The fire had caused several lanes of traffic on Sunrise Boulevard to be partially blocked off as emergency crews responded to the scene of the fire on the west side of the intersection. Metro Fire had reported that firefighters encountered heavy fire conditions upon arrival, with flames extending into the attic of the aging, two-story home.

Captain Vestal said no suspects were ever identified in the incident and said no future action is currently planned by Metro Fire or law enforcement. He said anyone with information about the fire can contact (916) 859-3779.

What’s going to happen to the home?
Although surrounded by a temporary chain link fence, a wide opening in the fence allows easy access. On Thursday, the front door was observed standing ajar, with only a few windows blocked with boards. A red notice posted next to the door declares the home “unsafe to occupy” by the city’s building department.

Christine, the nearby neighbor, is concerned that the longer the home sits vacant, the worse things will get.

County records indicate the three-quarter acre property at 7401 Sunrise Blvd. has been owned by Sunrise Place, LLC, since at least 2004. The LLC is managed by New Faze Development, a property development company founded by current Sacramento City Councilman Allen Warren.

New Faze has been involved in well-known redevelopment projects in the Sacramento region and is currently embarking on an effort to build “tiny town” on Rio Linda Boulevard, which will feature small homes ranging in size from 240 to 500 square feet with a price tag of just over $100,000.

A phone message left with a New Faze executive on Friday was not immediately returned, but a receptionist said she was unaware of any current plans for the old home at Sunrise Boulevard and Oak Avenue.

Also on The Sentinel: What’s going on with that run-down home at Old Auburn and Mariposa Ave?

According to Citrus Heights Associate Planner Alison Bermudez, an application was received in 2005 seeking to demolish the old home and replace it with 10 condominium units. As part of the application process, a preservation consultant was hired and determined the home was built “in the teens or 1920’s.” County assessor’s records list an “effective date” of 1925 for the home.

A determination was made that the home, although old, did not qualify for listing as a historical place or resource and could therefore be demolished. However, Bermudez said the condo project “never moved forward” and the application was closed.

She said no other applications for development at the site have been received.

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