Lodinews.com

default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
|
||
Logout|My Dashboard

Federal agency investigating downtown fire

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Monday, May 10, 2004 10:00 pm

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is now investigating a three-alarm fire that destroyed a downtown business last week.

Six federal investigators were at the South Sacramento Street site Monday, and an electrical engineer was expected to arrive from Maryland later in the day, said Fire Engineer Michael Harden, one of the lead Lodi investigators.

"We decided this is beyond us, let's get some help out here," he said.

"There are things beyond us we can't answer."

The first group of ATF investigators called Lodi and offered their assistance after completing their investigation into a church fire in South Sacramento. The blaze was ruled arson.

It isn't normal for the agency to get involved in Lodi fires, Fire Marshall Verne Person said. In this case, though, the ATF can use federal funds and also has more expertise, he added.

They are working in tandem with Lodi fire investigators.

Rashid Imports, 27 S. Sacramento St., began smoking minutes after 5 p.m. last Tuesday, and it erupted in flames more than an hour later. The inferno raged for hours, and firefighters were still spraying water on hot spots the following morning.

A week later, the block remains closed. A pile of debris sits in the lot next door to where the two-story building once offered boots and clothing for sale. Burned rubbish litters the now-open basement and charred boots have been shucked aside.

Damages have been estimated at $1.3 million to $1.4 million, the Lodi Fire Department said.

Reached by telephone Monday at the Rashid home, the son of business owner Fayeq Rashid said no decisions had been made about what to do with the business. The elder Rashid, who arrived on scene after the fire started and was then taken to the hospital with chest pains, is out of the hospital and doing better, his son said. His name was unavailable.

Fires with high monetary loss are often investigated by the ATF, said spokeswoman Marti McKee. The agency also investigates most commercial and church fires, as well as fires involving fatalities.

The ATF will take over most of the investigation, Person said, though the Lodi Fire Department will still be involved. It will also give them a chance to learn from the federal investigators, he said.

By Monday, firefighters had cleared debris from the first and second floors and had reached the basement, where the fire is believed to have started. No cause has been determined.

"The way our investigators approach the fire scene is with a completely open mind so they can look at it and do an unbiased investigation," McKee said. "They don't even want to know if it's suspicious."

Rubble and debris are all that are left of Rashid Imports. (Jennifer M. Howell/News-Sentinel)

Fire investigations typically take two or three days, McKee said. Investigators work to find the fire's origin and cause, and they can also do forensics work at a lab in the Bay Area.

In the past, Lodi fires have generally been investigated by the Lodi Fire Department. If the fire is suspicious and possible suspects are interviewed, police usually help, Lt. Virgil Monroe of the Lodi Police Department said.

This isn't the first time the ATF has been to Lodi, but most occasions have been to assist police or carry out their own firearms or bomb investigations.

"The advantage is that they've got their own labs and expertise," Monroe said.

In January, ATF agents helped the Lodi SWAT team search a Woodbridge home after police arrested a convicted felon who was wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a loaded handgun.

News-Sentinel staff writer Jennifer Pearson Bonnett contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Layla Bohm at layla@lodinews.com.

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Use your real name. You must register with your full first and last name before you can comment. (And don't pretend you're someone else.)
  • 2 Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually oriented language.
  • 3 Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
  • 4 Be truthful. Don't lie about anyone or anything. Don't post unsubstantiated allegations, rumors or gossip that could harm the reputation of a person, company or organization.
  • 5 Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 6 Stay on topic. Make sure your comments are about the story. Don't insult each other.
  • 7 Tell us if the discussion is getting out of hand. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 8 Share what you know, and ask about what you don't.

Welcome to the discussion.

Video

Popular Stories

Poll

Should graduations return to the Grape Bowl?

Lodi Unified leaders are moving Lodi and Tokay high school graduations from the Grape Bowl to the Spanos Center at UOP in Stockton. They cite limited seating, costs and unpredictable weather at the Grape Bowl. But others say graduations at the Grape Bowl are an important Lodi tradition, and one reason many supported renovating the stadium. What do you think?

Total Votes: 36

Loading…

Mailing List

Subscribe to a mailing list to have daily news sent directly to your inbox.

  • Breaking News

    Would you like to receive breaking news alerts? Sign up now!

  • News Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily news headlines? Sign up now!

  • Sports Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily sports headlines? Sign up now!

Manage Your Lists