UPDATED: Large fire guts Pasadena strip mall


A massive fire tore through a strip mall early Sunday, causing an estimated $1 million worth of damage to half a dozen small businesses, officials said.
The fire was first reported about 4:30 a.m. in the 500 block of North Fair Oaks Avenue, just north of Villa Street, Pasadena Fire Department officials said. The scorched strip mall includes six businesses.
0916_NWS_PSN-L-STRIPMALLFIRE7The most severely damaged businesses were a furniture store and a beauty shop, though a bicycle shop, a not-yet-opened art studio, a computer store and a vacant business were also damaged.
The first firefighters to arrive at the scene encountered “heavy flames shooting through the roof,” fire spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.
“It’s a common attic, so it spread quickly,” she said. Officials issued a second alarm, and firefighters from other nearby agencies joined the effort as well.
“We went right into a defensive mode, and what we call ‘surround and drown,’” Derderian said. Firefighters positioned both on ladders and on the ground attacked the flames with water and foam from the perimeter.
“There was a partial roof collapse, creating voids that were difficult to get into,” Derderian said.
Fifty-nine firefighters knocked down the fire after about two hours, officials said. But the buildings continued to smolder more than six hours later.
The cause of the blaze remained under investigation, Derderian said, and it was not clear which of the businesses the fire originated in.
The strip mall was constructed prior to 1933, she added.
Juan Mendez, who lives in a house just across the street from the strip mall, said he was awakened by the sound of firefighters smashing their way into the burning building.
“I looked out the window and I saw the fire was big,” he said.
Mendez said he grabbed his dog and moved his car down the street to it would be out of the way of a sea of arriving fire engines.
The fire burned very close to an apartment building behind the strip mall, but firefighters kept it from catching fire, Mendez said. “The fire department did a good job.”
Empire Bike Shop owner Rene Ramos said he was also impressed by the quick response and efforts by firefighters.
“We didn’t suffer too much damage. Mostly smoke,” he said.
Ramos and Derderian said a fire wall between the furniture store and the not-yet-opened studio helped stopped the progression of the flames.
Hopefully, Ramos said, the bicycle shop would be open again in a day or two, adding he could not afford to stay closed much longer.
He said was concerned about the other business owners whose buildings sustained worse damage.
The beauty shop had been in business 10 years, and the owner had recently remodeled, Ramos said. The furniture store had only opened less than a year ago.
One firefighter suffered a minor injury while battling the blaze, but was treated and the scene and did not go to the hospital, Derderian said. No civilian injuries were reported.
Officials initially estimated the fire caused $800,000 worth of damage to the building, and $200,000 worth of damage to its contents.

PHOTOS courtesy of Jamie Nicholson, Pasadena Fire Department



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