Four-alarm fire destroys East Bay lumber yard

March 14, 2010 1:14:41 PM PDT
Fire investigators in Walnut Creek determined Sunday morning that the Piedmont Lumber building is a total loss.

Saturday's huge fire threatened people and animals at businesses between N. Main Street and Interstate 680 as a 76-year-old business that helped people build their homes burned down.

Firefighters do not know when Piedmont Lumber in Walnut Creek caught fire. They got the first calls from people who could see it around 1:45 p.m.

"Radiant heat emanating from the fire was starting to ignite adjacent structures, so it had a good start," said Chief John Ross with the Contra Costa Fire Department. "How long, I don't know."

"We opened the door and it was a wall of flames," said Sarah Weyland of Four Paws Grooming. "It was hot. Hot, hot, hot. So, I shut the door and we started grabbing dogs and heading out."

Weyland was grooming dogs at the nearby business Four Paws when a customer came running in screaming for her dog. Once Weyland saw the fire, she started grabbing dogs. There were 17 of them in the store.

"By the time we got to the door, there was business owners and people off the street running down our hallway asking us what they could do to help and we got all the dogs out," she recalled.

The fire also threatened the N. Main Pet Lodge which had to evacuate around two dozen animals.

"Animal Control came with trucks and crates, and we've moved them all to our home, to a safe location," Colleen Prouty said.

The massive fire did not spread to any other buildings, but word of it certainly did. Workers at the Burger King across the street witnessed firsthand how their customers helped get the word out.

"They have all their cameras out, their cell phones out," Divina De Guzman said.

Someone thought to call and send pictures to Barbara and Joe Duvall, who own Joe's Foreign Automotive next door. They were up in Jenner but jumped in the car and got to the scene as fast as they could.

"It was the longest two and a half hours I've ever experienced," Barbara told ABC7. "I don't know about you."

They were relieved to find their 30-year-old business still intact.

This was not the first fire to strike the Piedmont Lumber Company. The Pittsburg location caught fire last year. Firefighters say they never figured out what started that fire.

"As it relates to this fire today, it's still undetermined," said Contra Costa County Battalion Chief Steve Maiero. "Now, what we'll do is, certainly, we'll look at similarities with this fire to see if there's anything that would be similar to the fire in Pittsburg."

Walnut Creek residents say this is just more bad news for this company that looked like it was preparing to go out of business.

No one was hurt in the fire.


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