Monterey County

Investigation underway for cause of burned down building in Chinatown

Building next to Victory Mission...

SALINAS, Calif. - After burning for hours through the night, all that’s left of an abandoned building in Chinatown is charred brick.

“There were no services to the building, electric and gas,” said Brett Loomis, Salinas Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief. So it’s going to be some type of a human caused event.”

Fire crews are now on scene. They’re getting witness statements, looking at video and burn patterns to see what caused it to ignite.

“We don’t have a cause of the fire,” said Loomis. “However we have a couple of people who told us that they saw a person or people inside the building around the time the fire started, so we’re looking into that right now.”

Fire officials said the fire started in the front of the historic building formally known as The Swinging Door. They strategically applied water, but holes in the structure and fear of it collapsing stopped them from going inside.

“There is no piece of property that is worth any human life,” said Loomis. “So we assumed what was called a defensive posture and we allowed the fire to progress.”

The 80-year-old structure used to be one of the anchoring buildings in Chinatown. Frank Rosales used to go there when it provided services to the homeless and disadvantaged.  

“It’s kind of like tears in your eyes, when you’re going to your knees and you’re praying to God,” said Rosales. “Kind of like part of you is gone.”

But what was saved is Victory Mission, a nonprofit attached to the burned building that gives food, shelter and clothes to people living in and around Chinatown.

“Humbled, let’s put it that way,” said Ken Cusson, Executive Director of Victory Mission. “We’re humbled by all of this.”

Crews told KION they worked hard to keep the fire from burning Victory Mission. A slight breeze pushed the fire away from the building. For now the nonprofit is left without power, but they said they’re eternally grateful.

“We’ve always been wondering should we stay here, should we try to find another location,” said Cusson. “But now it seems like God is saying to us I don’t care hell, fire or brimstone, you're gonna stay right where you are.”

Salinas Fire Department said the building is going to have to come down. They’ll be assessing how to do that along with monitoring the situation for the next couple of days. 

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