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Fire Damages Empire Theatre Along Stockton's Miracle Mile

STOCKTON (CBS13) - A two-alarm fire broke out in the building that once housed nine businesses along Stockton's Miracle Mile. This incident is now part of an investigation.

Constance Carter remembers a portion of the Miracle Mile full of life. There were bright lights, many visitors, and places to eat and shop.  But things have changed dramatically.

ALSO: One Year After Miracle Mile Shutdown, Stockton Residents Want Businesses Back

"Now, it's blighted. Now you're going to see the buildings boarded up. But what we are seeing is a lot of transients. You know, we see people yelling at the building, talking to themselves. We see people in the trash, we see people urinating all over the building," said Constance Carter, owner of Catalyst Real Estate Professionals.

And now neighbors say transients, who are squatting in the building, are also starting fires. Investigators are looking into the matter.  They say two fires started inside the structure -- one last week and the other just this weekend.

"There was so much stuff, they had taken out, it was just trash all over the place, it could have easily caught on fire if they were in there lighting up something like drugs easily, that is a possibly," she said.

ALSO: Stockton Miracle Mile Security Changes Have Neighbors Worried

Firefighters still don't know the cause, but what they do know is the fire started in the coffee shop area and quickly moved into the theater and up to the attic.

"There was cardboard and a couple of cans of turpentine sitting in the front of the door," said Al Greko, owner Al's Comics.

Neighbors say they are surprised by the latest fire. They have seen suspicious people and activity since a portion of the Miracle Mile was deserted more than a year ago when the city forced nine businesses to move out over code violations.

"The city can do more about it. The police department they should handle it...taking care of these transients that are causing the problems," he said.

A spokesperson for the city says they have to wait until the fire department's investigation is complete to move forward with any kind of repairs.

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