Prized vintage cars among infernoa��s casualties
a�� By Chris Smith / Advisory Editor
Firefighters from Hemet and surrounding areas battled a large fire in a commercial building Friday night, March 15, on North State Street in Hemet. The building and several vehicles were destroyed, but there were no reported injuries. Initial estimates place the damage at about $500,000.
Around 8 p.m., the Hemet Fire Department responded to reports of a fire and explosions coming from a large industrial building in the 1000 block of North State Street, Unit 304, near Little Pantry Restaurant.
Arriving units found the 10,000 square-foot commercial building fully engulfed in flames. The buildings appeared to be mostly dedicated to automotive repair and restoration, and the explosions were presumed to be caused by vehicle gas tanks exploding and bursting into flames. Propane tanks inside also were likely exploding, according to fire officials.
As Hemet firefighters battled the blaze, the structure suddenly suffered a partial collapse onto several vehicles inside, which were destroyed in the fire. Reports from the scene were that up to four prized vintage cars that were being restored were among those that burned.
Firefighters were still battling the flames after at least two hours and, due to the size of the building, Hemet Fire Department requested backup from Cal Fire/Riverside County, which earlier had been occupied with other emergencies.
The fire reportedly started when a worker was installing a gas tank on a vehicle. The tank apparently slipped, fell, and caught fire, according to bystanders. No official cause has been released, however, and the fire is still under investigation.
Officials said that while the larger structure was destroyed, firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading to numerous other nearby businesses.
John Strangis of ENG News, who was on scene at the fire, contributed to this story.