GILROY (CBS SF) – A suspicious fire early Monday morning in Gilroy damaged a Salvation Army retail store and distribution warehouse and burned a trailer full of donated goods, a fire division chief said.
A fire alarm company called the Gilroy Fire Department at 2:05 a.m. to tell firefighters that a water flow alarm went off at a Salvation Army thrift store and donation point at 6701 Camino Arroyo.
Shortly after that, someone called from a cellphone and said they saw flames coming from a building, Gilroy Fire Division Chief Mary Gutierrez said.
That prompted fire officials to call for a one-alarm response. The first crew to respond was a couple of blocks away when they saw heavy black smoke in the air and called for a second alarm.
Flames eventually rose to over two-stories high. The fire was contained mainly to the 53-foot tractor-trailer but a loading door burned and a loading dock was destroyed.
A similar fire occurred recently at a Home Goods store nearby, which is why fire officials deemed this fire suspicious.
Gutierrez said investigators have to wait until the power to the building is back on before they're able to look at video surveillance footage of the area.
"It's a really nice facility," Gutierrez said. "It's a shame."
Before firefighters could leave this morning, they had to get to the contents of the trailer, which were smoldering. They were hard to get at because the trailer was up against the building. Firefighters had to get a tow truck to pull the trailer away from the building.
"We had a lot of trouble getting to it," Gutierrez said.
Once the trailer was accessible, a front loader was used to get the contents out of the trailer.
Salvation Army Major John Desplancke said the contents were bound for a central processing center in San Jose. From there, the goods were going to six stores in the Silicon Valley area.
Desplancke estimated the loss at $3,000 to $5,000. The fire will affect employees who won't be able to work for at least a day. It also will hurt potential buyers of the goods who find it difficult to buy new products.
"This hurts the community that needs the most assistance," Desplancke said.
The money from the sales of the goods also funds a 96-bed Salvation Army drug and alcohol recovery center, Desplancke said.
Gutierrez yellow-tagged the warehouse and store, which means some parts of it are off-limits. The fire caused some structural damage and until the structural issues are addressed, the building will remain yellow-tagged, she said.
She expects the store to be closed for a while.
"There's just a lot of damage," she said.
By 3 a.m., firefighters had knocked down the fire and Gutierrez called the fire under control at about 4 a.m.
Firefighters from Gilroy, Morgan Hill and the South Santa Clara County Fire District worked together to put out the blaze.
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