San Luis Obispo city fire officials on Monday continued their investigation into the cause of the large fire that destroyed The Sub gift shop near downtown Saturday, saying early information indicates the fire was accidental — likely ignited in the front of the building.
The business, in the 200 block of Higuera Street, as well as a neighboring apartment, was destroyed in the fire that broke out about 10:49 a.m. Saturday and required fire crews from six agencies to battle the blaze into the night.
Sub owner Richard Ferris was at the site again Monday, hoping to get inside with his insurance company representative and a private engineer to survey the damage and begin to estimate losses.
“When are you going to rule this an arson so my insurance company can put up a reward?” Ferris asked San Luis Obispo Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Gator through the chain-link fence surrounding the property.
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Ferris indicated that he was weighing his options on whether to rebuild The Sub. The owner has been critical of the fire department’s initial response.
When are you going to rule this an arson so my insurance company can put up a reward?
Richard Ferris, owner of destroyed business The Sub, to city fire officials
Thomas Zundel, owner of Quality Fabrics & Supply Co., which sits next to The Sub, said Monday that, although his business suffered no flame damage, it did sustain enough smoke and water damage to put him out of business — at least for now.
“It’s pretty much a total loss. I’m out of business for the time being,” Zundel said. “Smoke doesn’t go very well with foam and fabric.”
He said his business is insured and estimated the monetary damage in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Unlike Ferris, Zundel said he believes the fire department’s response “was great,” adding that “they were very accommodating and tried to do the best they could under the circumstances. They did their job to the best of their ability, and I’m very grateful.”
They did their job to the best of their ability, and I’m very grateful.
Thomas Zundel, owner of Quality Fabrics & Supply Co., on firefighters’ performance
Gator said early investigation indicates The Sub fire was accidental, but he noted that investigators have not yet identified the point of origin.
Investigators are still reviewing two cellphone videos taken by witnesses before the first-responding fire engines arrived, Gator said, adding that he did not know how long the investigation would take.
As of late Monday afternoon, he said, officials had not been able to fully access the interior because of the high risk for structural collapse, most notably the soffit hanging over the front of the building. Officials were discussing removing the soffit, as well as any other structures at risk of collapse, to stabilize the building, Gator said.
“You can’t go into a spot until those hazards are eliminated,” Gator said. So far, the department has used a videographer to document as much of the scene as possible, he said.
He added that with rain expected next week, the city is planning on removing as much debris from the site as possible as to reduce the risk of stormwater contamination.