A pre-dawn fire Thursday destroyed two historic homes in Fresno’s Old Armenian Town, where investigators believe transients are living, Fresno Bee reports.
The flames swept through the homes and heavily damaged other parts of the site on M Street at the Highway 41 overpass, on the south edge of downtown Fresno. Fresno Fire spokesman Shane Brown said the blaze erupted about 12:30 a.m.
Brown said flames were pouring out of one home when first units arrived, and the fire quickly spread to a second house. There are multiple buildings on the site, and Brown said that all of the buildings, which are surrounded by a metal fence, have been broken into. Clothes, food and other items were spread about other buildings. Brown said while arson is difficult to prove, investigators believe the fire was intentionally set.
Acclaimed novelist William Saroyan grew up in the district after Armenians fled a genocide at the hands of Turkish troops in the early 1900s. The homes were part of a major seven-acre development, where plans include an Armenian museum and a multi-story commercial office building. The historic homes and other buildings were moved to the site as part of the display.