Fire officials suspect arson behind blaze at Fong Restaurant

April 06, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

A fire at Fong Restaurant in El Centro on Thursday night appears to be related to two fires earlier this year at the neighboring Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo office.

The El Centro Fire Department responded to the restaurant at 1461 S. 4th St. at 11:32 p.m. Thursday and found the electrical panel on the business's exterior south wall ablaze, said fire Capt. Wayne Cartee.

While the flames extended into the attic, there was no fire or smoke inside the restaurant, Cartee said.

Firefighters cautiously put water on the electrical panel and were able to contain the fire while waiting for Imperial Irrigation District employees to shut off the facility's power before extinguishing the flames, Cartee said.

Firefighters cut a hole in the building's roof and extinguished the attic flames with a crew on the roof and one firefighter inside the attic, Cartee said.


No injuries were reported.

Crews extinguished the fire within 20 minutes, Cartee said.

Damage is estimated at $10,000 although it could have been much higher had owner Rafael Fong not been working late and noticed the fire, Cartee said.

Fong was inside the building and discovered the fire after the lights and television began to flicker, Cartee said. Fong went outside to check the electrical panel, saw the fire and called for help, Cartee said.

Investigators think the fire is arson due to the amount of debris found at the base of the electrical panel and combustibles present that should not have been there, Cartee said.

Though investigators find no relationship between this latest arson and the arson at Murray Cleaners in El Centro on March 27, this fire is thought to be related to two fires that hit the building adjacent to Fong Restaurant earlier this year.

Those fires, on Jan. 17 and Feb. 10, burned parts of the Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo offices.

Those two fires were determined to be suspicious, El Centro Fire Marshal Linual White said.

All three fires at 1461 S. 4th St. involved structures and were started outside, White said.

The investigation into the blaze is ongoing. The restaurant is closed temporarily.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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