Firefighters pour water onto the hot fire trying to stop it from spreading to nearby businesses that included the Medicine Shoppe and Dominos Pizza and Grand Oaks Deli/Liquor.

A ‘great save’ by firefighters keeps
strip mall from being destroyed

April 07, 2014
Santa Paula News

By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula Times A firefight involving multiple responders that started in a laundry mat and spread to a common attic ended with a “great save” of a strip mall Sunday night, according to Fire Chief Rick Araiza.

He added that two of the four businesses in the center, located at 431 Santa Paula-Ojai Road/Highway 150 struck by fire could be reopened shortly.

Initially, the fire was reported as a dryer fire: “The engine company didn’t think much of it, they always go to dryer fires,” but, said Araiza, “by the time they got to Ojai Road they saw it was fully involved,” with flames and smoke pouring from the coin operated laundry and attic.

It was quickly upgraded to a two-alarm fire with requests for mutual aid.

Ojai Road at Saticoy Street to the south an Orchard Street to the north was closed and Santa Paula Police, Citizens Patrol and Public Works also responded to the scene for traffic control and to keep pedestrian onlookers a safe enough distance away from the blaze.

Araiza said the fire was already spreading to the other occupant businesses in the strip mall and nearby apartments were also threatened.

Engine 181 Captain Jerry Byrum took initial command and when Araiza arrived on scene a plan was devised to stop the fire from spreading.

“We did a common attack for all four tenant spaces, we were concerned we would lose the whole strip mall,” and finding that they shared a common attic Araiza said firefighters “did a trench across the entire roof... “

The tactic worked, minimizing the damage to Dominos Pizza and Grand Oak Deli/Liquor as well as to The Medicine Shoppe. 

“We wound up with a little damage to the pharmacy,” but firefighters were able to stop the fire from entering Dominos and the liquor store.

In all 13 units, engines, Battalion Chiefs and other responders-”There were a lot of people there,” said Araiza-were at the scene with Ventura City Fire and Ventura County Fire helping Santa Paula Fire attack the blaze aggressively.

A portion of the blaze was knocked down in less than a half hour and it took another 20 minutes to knock down the entire fire, which firefighters prevented from spreading beyond the strip mall building.

“There were a lot of engines, it was a lot of work and an absolutely great save,” said Araiza. “Everyone did an amazing job... they stopped the fire in that attic area and were able to knock it down,” without further damage to the building or the fire spreading to other structures.

Firefighters and equipment from other agencies were being released from the scene by about 9:15 p.m. but Araiza said it wasn’t until 12:30 a.m. that the overhaul was completed and all personnel released after making sure the fire was completely out.

Santa Paula-Ojai Road/Highway 150 was reopened at about the same time.

There were no reports of injuries and Araiza said the cause of the fire is still being investigated.

“Somebody must have been there doing laundry. The fire started in a dryer or behind the dryer, went up the wall and into the attic... it looks like it got a good hold up there,” before it was reported. 

“The total damage I would probably guess is close to $100,000,” including the washers and dryers destroyed in the coin laundry as well as the structural damage that Araiza said, “Pretty well ruined much of the roof and the wall between the laundry and the pharmacy... we’ll know more today,” and although the building has been red-tagged Araiza said he expects Dominos and the liquor store will be able to reopen shortly.

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