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Damage estimate for National City warehouse fire grows to $8M; second largest fire in city history

An accidental fire sparked by an electrical device inside a National City warehouse caused $8 million in damage, making it the second-largest fire in city history, a fire official said this week.

The fire started in an area where several power strips, cords and electrical devices were plugged into outlets, said National City fire Battalion Chief and Fire Investigator Robert Hernandez.

Hernandez said the fire is thought to be the second largest the South County city has seen in recent history, surpassed only by a blaze that ravaged the South Bay Plaza shopping center in the 1970s.

This month’s massive three-alarm fire ignited Aug. 1 at the Western Hose and Gasket warehouse on the corner of West 30th Street and Harding Avenue.

The fire was reported around 11:20 p.m. by drivers on Interstate 5 and state Route 54 who said they saw flames burning through the roof of a building.

Firefighters from National City, San Diego, Chula Vista and Bonita helped beat back the blaze. Crews worked overnight and got control of the flames around 3 or 4 a.m.

Officials initially estimated the fire had caused $6 million worth of damage but upped that estimate to $8 million after getting a closer look at the structure.

The 34,000-square-foot business consists of two connected warehouses. One building, which stood at 22,000 square feet, was a complete loss. A large portion of the roof collapsed.

Hernandez said firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading to the second building, which only sustained smoke damage. Rubber, plastic and propane inside the warehouse fueled the fire and created additional smoke. There were no injuries during the blaze.

Aided by surveillance footage from surrounding businesses, investigators determined the fire started around 10:30 p.m. inside the building.

Since the building was built at a time with different fire code laws, it was not equipped with fire sprinklers or alarms, resulting in the near-hour delay between when the flames started and when the fire department was alerted, Hernandez said.

There were “nothing suspicious” in the area when it began leading investigators to believe the flames erupted accidentally, the battalion chief said.

The building’s owners have indicated they plan to rebuild the warehouse that burned.

Western Hose & Gasket is a hose and rubber supply company owned by the LeGros family since its founding in 1979. Hernandez said the family isn’t going anywhere, and plans to operate out of the existing warehouse for now.

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