Firefighter injured in 3-alarm structure fire in Vallejo


The smoke could be seen for miles, thick black smoke, coming from a fire in what was the body shop at this vacant dealership. This was a haven for the homeless and has been officially called suspicious.

The call came in a little after 7 Thursday morning and soon all five of Vallejo's fire stations had crews on the scene, they were soon joined by crews from adjoining communities like American Canyon and Benicia. The fire destroyed about a third of the sprawling building.

"The fire came through the roof in the body shop and that is where the fire started in that portion of the building. The building official from the city of Vallejo has determined that the building needs to be raised in that area for safety," said Vallejo fire dept. Spokesman Bill Tweedy.

The cause is suspicious says Tweedy because the power had been cut to the building and this was a known encampment for homeless people -- like Ronnie Ryan.

"We have been over here for two days and we heard fire engines and they rolled in and we heard the siren's shutdown right there, and that caught our attention and we jumped up," said Ryan.

One firefighter injured his knee inside the building, searching for people like Ronnie Ryan.

"He was just searching for other people that would be in the building. That is just part of their primary search and they go through and look at places where people would be and sometimes things happen," said Tweedy.

Across the street, at Ace Hardware, one employee said he was only surprised this hadn't happened sooner, considering how many homeless called this building home. Yard foreman Jake McDonald says they had even told the city.

"We did once and they sent some people out and that was it. After that we didn't complain anymore. They were just homeless people and didn't have any other place to go and there is not a lot to do here. So nobody complained anymore," said McDonald.

But someone might complain; damage to the building is estimated at $500,000.

Tweedy said that the closure of three fire stations because of budget cuts did not impact response time because the closest station was only a mile away.

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