A fire that destroyed a downtown business last week was likely caused by an accidental electrical problem, fire investigators ruled late Tuesday afternoon.
Investigators found nothing suspicious and the official cause of the Rashid Imports fire will be listed as "undetermined," Lodi Fire Capt. Mike Lair said.
That news was welcome to building and business owner Fayeq Rashid, who said he was relieved to learn that nobody had intentionally set the fire.
Rashid said he came to Lodi 31 years ago and opened the business six years later, importing boots and clothes from countries ranging from Guatemala to Taiwan. He already has future plans.
"I have to rebuild. This is my life, it's everything I have," he said.
The Lodi Fire Department, with the help of federal investigators, wrapped up their investigation one week after smoke began coming from the building located at 27 S. Sacramento St. last Tuesday.
Hours later, flames were still consuming the 5,250-square-foot building, and the blaze burned through the night.
Once the fire was completely put out, firefighters and a construction crew began pulling the building apart. They got to the basement, where fire investigators determined the fire had started, Lair said.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had offered assistance, and the Lodi Fire Department soon took them up on the offer. An electrical engineer flew in from Maryland on Monday and the investigators set to work Tuesday.
"We spent all day down in that basement today; we went through things with a fine-toothed comb," Lair said Tuesday evening.
In the afternoon, an ATF dog sniffed through the area, looking for anything suspicious.
"You just start eliminating things, and the dog was brought in to rule out any kind of accellerants," Lair said.
No "red flags" came up, he said as he moved the mobile command center that had been parked on Sacramento Street for a week.
The street reopened, but the sidewalk will likely remained closed while city officials make sure the area is safe, Lair said.
A large pile of rubble and boots from the two-story building remains in the now-empty lot, and fire crews are also questioning the stability of a brick wall that separated Rashid Imports from Minerva's Furniture.
The wall prevented the three-alarm fire from spreading to the furniture store, but the business will likely stay closed for some time, firefighters said Tuesday afternoon.
Rashid doesn't know when he'll be able to rebuild, but he did have insurance, and the company has been very helpful, he said.
The father of seven was taken by ambulance to the hospital during the fire after experiencing chest pains, and he spent several days there.
"This was very shocking. It's my life, but it's not just me," he said, mentioning his family and the businesses he supplies.
The Fire Department has placed damage estimates at $1.3 million to $1.4 million.