At approximately 1:00pm Saturday afternoon fire crews responded to a fire in the Historic District of San Juan. The fire involved the buliding which housed Tom’s Antique Lighting on Washington Street between Third and Fourth Streets which was adjacent to the Orient Express Chinese Restaurant, which sustained heavy damage from efforts to contain the spread of the fire. The fire crews were able to keep the fire from spreading to neighboring buildings, including a residence next to the building on Fourth Street.
Several on the scene said that they heard 4 or five “pops”, or explosions, and then saw the fire which spread quickly. Two individuals on the scene attempted to put the fire out with a garden house but were quickly overwhelmed by the fire.
First on the scene was the San Juan Fire Department, which was joined by crews from Hollister, Gilroy and CALFIRE. The San Benito Sheriffs Department, the California Highway Patrol, Red Cross, Sam Benito CERT volunteers were all present in support.
Hollister Fire Chief Mike O’Connor said that $200,000-$500,000 of inventory was damaged and probably $1 miliion worth of damage to the buildings. He reported that the Monterey-San Benito Arson Task Force was on the scene looking into the cause of the fire.
He noted how well the fire services worked together; there were seven engines and air support and Aromas and CALFIRE responded to cover the stations in San Juan and Hollister while the crews were engaged with the fire.
Firefighter Ryan O’Connor noted that they were on the first truck to respond and his crew was composed of a reserve from the city of San Juan, a rerve from Hollister and a reserve from the County. He said that fortunately there was a firefighter at the station doing something else and another off-duty officer who joined at the scene which enabled the to be more effective in fighting the fire.
Business operators in the nearby Plaza Market building on Third Street evacuated their inventory to safety.