Lingering effects of strip mall fire
by Glenn Moore
Apr 04, 2014 | 8226 views | 0 0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Waiting for repairs
A row of businesses in the McKinley Village Shopping Center sit behind a chain-link fence Tuesday after losing electrical and gas service because of a March 26 fire in the building.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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A chain-link fence keeps business owners and customers away from a wing of the McKinley Village Shopping Center, where a fire gutted a vacant suite and damaged two others March 26.

One week later, four businesses not damaged in the fire also remain shuttered, without electricity and gas service.

The two-alarm fire tore through a small portion of the 21,000-square foot center at 2150 N. Tracy Blvd., sending smoke and flames through parts of the roof and cutting electrical power and natural gas to the entire wing of the shopping complex.

Behind the fence, at least until temporary repairs to utilities are completed, are Sonia’s Restaurant Mexican Food in Suite C, the Laundromat in Suite F, Discount Liquors in Suite G and Tracy 1HR Portrait & Gifts in Suites J-K. A private security guard patrols the parking lot, keeping watch on the empty businesses.

Anthony Tran owns Tracy 1HR Portraits & Gifts, at the end of the row of businesses burned by the fire.

Tran has had his photography business in McKinley Village since July 2012, when he moved into the 2,800-square-foot site with three employees. Like the other business owners, he can only wait to hear when he will be allowed to return.

“We are just waiting for the insurance,” Tran said. “This is my first fire.”

Tran said that although his business was untouched by the flames, smoke permeated the space. When he spent 20 minutes inside with an insurance adjuster on Tuesday, the smell of the smoke made him sick.

But Tran worries that any delay getting his doors back open may cost him clients.

“This is our best months — with proms, Mother’s Day and graduations. I felt bad for our customers,” Tran said. “I don’t know what the future is going to be.”

In April and May 2012, Tran said, the portrait studio did about $30,000 in business. He had high hopes this year with a bigger client base, but the damage caused by the fire at has brought business to a halt.

Tran wasn’t sure Wednesday how long his business would remain closed or whether his employees would need to look for new jobs, but he hoped to open again as soon as possible. He said his shop was one of the only places in Tracy offering one-hour photo processing.

“It is good for the local economy,” Tran said. “The city doesn’t want anyone going out of town.”

Code enforcement officer Jim Decker said the city was doing what it could to help. He said he had discussed several scenarios with a representative from the shopping center, including using portable generators.

“We want to get business back open, but we want them to be safe,” Decker said. “The city is waiting for the contractor to contact us.”

Decker said Suite A, which is vacant, suffered the worst damage, including a partial collapse of the roof.

“The unfortunate thing is the electrical service to that side (of the shopping center) passed over the roof to Suite A,” he said.

To reopen any business that was undamaged and simply lacks power, the contractor for the shopping center would need to submit a plan to the city detailing the temporary services it would need and apply for a permit.

“It is relatively easy to re-establish electrical service with generators and temporary gas service with flexible lines,” Decker said.

The Laundromat, for example, which uses gas-fired dryers, would need a flexible outdoor gas line that could tie into the gas service, he said.

Full repairs to the shopping complex could take some time, Decker said, as the damage to Suite A was extensive.

The most immediate danger to the complex is the partially collapsed roof with damaged trusses. Decker said repairing it would most likely require a structural engineer to design new engineered roof trusses.

Holes cut in other sections of the roof by firefighters to allow smoke to escape from the complex during the fire have allowed rainwater in, causing additional damage, Decker said, and the roof will need to be made waterproof.

“Lots of different pieces will have to come together,” Decker said, before the wing can return to normal use.

Division Chief Steve Hanlon of Tracy fire department said this week that the cause of the fire was still under investigation. He estimated the cost of the fire at $323,795 in property loss and $80,949 in the building’s contents.

• Contact Glenn Moore at gmoore@tracypress.com or 830-4252.

 
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