A piece of Fresno’s history is now gone after going up in flames overnight. Two houses in downtown’s Armenian Town were left in shambles after a devastating fire. One of them still stands, but it’s been completely charred while the other has been reduced to rubble.
The two houses, on Santa Clara and M streets, were built in the early 1900s and survived through the years up until the fire. “The volume of fire they encountered that you can see on that helmet cam footage it is incredible because there is nothing in there to burn, it’s just the structural members,” said Fresno Fire’s Shane Brown.
Varoujan Der Simonian with the Armenian Heritage Museum said the loss is a blow to his community and the City of Fresno. “That $2.4 million of city money which was invested to preserve those homes is now in jeopardy,” said Simonian.
Eshkan Melikian lived in one of the two houses as a boy. His former home still stands, but there’s not much left of it. “This is a devastation to the community of Fresno and the Armenian people,” he said. “This should not happen, but it did happen and when I woke up this morning, it really hurt me.” The cluster of about four houses in Armenian Town were not always there, they were built around 1901 just a block away on Santa Clara and N streets. “The house had real good character, high ceilings, and big windows,” said Melikian.
They stood empty for several years until they were moved to their current location. They were restored to be converted into offices and other business spaces. When the fire broke out, no one and nothing was inside the vacant homes.
Fire investigators believe homeless people bypassed the steel rod gates and started the fire. Fire officials say they’ve had several homeless break-ins at the houses in the past. Although the future of the remaining homes is uncertain, Der Simonian said he dreams they’ll one day serve as Armenian history exhibits.