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Calif. firefighters retreat from inside structure during 3-alarm fire

Firefighters had begun an interior attack on the 96-year-old building but switched to exterior operations

By John Cox
The Bakersfield Californian

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — A three-level building that for decades anchored downtown Bakersfield’s antique row went up in flames Monday night just months after a going-out-of-business sale renewed attention on the 38,000-square-foot structure at the southeast corner of 19th and R streets.

About 70 firefighters battled the blaze for an hour and a half starting at about 11:40 p.m., a battalion chief with the Bakersfield Fire Department reported. First, they pushed inside the 96-year-old building then, about 10 minutes later, firefighters retreated to the exterior and doused it with hoses in a successful effort to keep the fire from spreading to neighboring structures.

By 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, the roof was gone, windows had been busted and the charred building smelled of wet soot. Smoke continued to rise in the rear of the property as an arson investigator walked the interior with a dog trained to sniff for any accelerants that might have been used to start the fire.

Battalion Chief Bryce Patterson said no injuries were reported and that the building appeared to have been unoccupied, though he could not confirm it because the basement was still filled with water from BFD’s three-alarm response. He added that it was too early to guess what started the blaze.

The fire’s large size prompted the department to dispatch 27 vehicles or other pieces of equipment to the scene, Patterson reported.

Before committing to a decision on scene, consider your justification for the choice and the feasibility of success, then identify possible solutions and alternatives

For many years the building near Central Park was run as a high-end antique store by business owner Scott Grey, whose peers in the area called his shop “the museum” because of its wide selection of historical items, including tall wrought-iron gates from Paris and stained-glass church windows.

After Grey’s death in 2022, his business, the Great American Antique Store, was purchased by a local couple who, upon being told the rent would be increased, opted to sell as much inventory as possible before shutting down the store in late summer or fall of last year.

A local partnership talked about buying and converting the building into a public market. It was unclear Tuesday how far those plans progressed.

Preventing a mayday event
Risk management expert and Lexipol co-founder Gordon Graham discusses some of the strategies fire personnel can utilize to prevent a mayday event

A local commercial property broker whose name and phone number still hung on the structure Tuesday did not respond to requests for comment.

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