PASADENA — A massive fire destroyed a nonprofit community center early Saturday, officials said.
The cause of the 5:15 a.m. fire at the Neighbors Acting Together Helping All (NATHA) community center in the rear parking lot of the Opportunities For Learning school building, at 456 W. Montana Street, was under investigation, according to Pasadena fire and police department officials.
Arson, however, had been ruled out, Pasadena police Sgt. Ed Calatayud. Arson investigators determined there had not been forced entry to the building.
Firefighters responding to a fire alarm at the single-story structure see heavy flames from the Foothill (210) Freeway, Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.
“There were heavy flames shooting the the roof on our arrival,” she said. “They went right into a defensive mode because the structural integrity was compromised.”
The possibility of collapse forced firefighters to “surround and drown” the massive fire from the perimeter, Derderian said.
Pasadena and Los Angeles County firefighters extinguished the fire in about 45 minutes.
Officials estimated the dollar-value of the damage to be $1.75 million.
Despite initial report from police and fire officials that the gutted structure was part of the Oppotunity Learning Center,
Once the fire was out, officials discovered that a storage room also owned by NATHA, but separated by a parking lot from the burned building, had been broken into overnight, Calatayud said.
It was not clear what time the break-in took place, he said.
The burglarized room is used to store office supplies, and it was unclear what, if anything, had been stolen pending an inventory, Calatayud added.
Despite the proximity of the fire and the burglary, “There’s nothing at this point to draw a nexus between the two,” Calatayud said.
PHOTO (top) courtesy of the Pasadena Fire Department