Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
This historic building next to the tracks at Yosemite Avenue and E Street was damaged by fire early Wednesday. The building was once home to the local Railway Express Agency offices, and has had several tenants since.
Two small fires broke out just after midnight Wednesday morning and damaged empty commercial buildings downtown Madera before being extinguished by fire fighters. No injuries were reported.
The first fire is believed to have been caused by a homeless person living alongside the railroad tracks and using a fire for cooking or warmth at Yosemite and north E Street, damaging the back wall and and attic of the historic Railway Express Agency building. Bedding and other belongings were found, along with a small makeshift lean-to, in the area of the fire.
The Railway Express Agency was a nationwide package delivery service that used railroads to make it possible to deliver merchandise to almost anywhere there was service from a railroad.
A second fire started shortly thereafter along an exterior back wall behind a vacant commercial building near D and 4th Streets, and the cause is being deemed suspicious by firefighters.
Authorities cautioned against the use of cooking or warming fires any time of year due to the risk of wildfires and encouraged the homeless to seek treatment and shelter inside, rather than to continue to struggle outdoors in the winter weather.