BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Yet another abandoned building in Bakersfield burns overnight, leaving the community searching for answers. Some witnesses place the blame on the city’s transient population. Firefighters say Bakersfield has seen a sharp rise in structure fires this year. Firefighters were called to the former Hong Kong restaurant on Chester Avenue near 7th street at about 2:45 this morning. On Chin owned the restaurant for decades.
“We bought this in ’64, 1964. We ran the restaurant here for 50 years,” said Chin. “Then this morning I got this call at 6:30 that someone said it was on fire, and it’s burning.”
He says this isn’t the first fire here. He spent the last two years rebuilding.
“It happened two years ago, and they burned it. Like a third of the building, and this time it’s burned down to the wall,” said Chin. “Next? Gotta tear it down, that’s all you can do.”
Chin says this vacant building had an unwanted guest. He says he believes she started this fire, and the last one.
“This homeless person was sitting here for like a whole two years almost, every day,” said Chin. “I have some witnesses that they saw her doing this.”
Firefighters say Bakersfield has seen a 30% increase in building fires this year compared to 2020. About a third of those structures are abandoned.
“How is the fire department planning to learn more about these fires?” asked 17’s Moses Small.
“We’re finding where there may be phases or patterns of structure fires,” said Capt. Michael Taylor of the Bakersfield Police Dept. “We do have a new feature where we can track where transients were actually involved.”
The Bakersfield Fire department says it plans to roll out more fire data next year.