A massive fire broke out along Highway 108 on Wednesday morning, destroying two businesses and damaging a church.
At 8:33 a.m., firefighters from the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District were dispatched to the fire behind a business on Atchison Street, which is the name of the highway as it runs through the northeast part of town.
Capt. Buck Condit said the first crew arrived two minutes later and upgraded it to a working structure fire when they saw heavy smoke billowing from the back of Vigil Wireless and Fashion Ware, a clothing and no-contract cellphone retailer.
“The first call came in ... as a potential structure fire, so it was a reduced response. First unit arrived on scene upgraded it to a working structure fire, which brought more resources, and then after that, more resources were needed,” Condit said of what amounted to a three-alarm fire. “At that point, (the fire) had a little bit too much of a head start.”
He said firefighting efforts were hampered when crews had to use a chain saw to get through a metal roll-up door and breach the business doors, then found they couldn’t reach the fire because of storage issues in the store.
The fire spread to the neighboring business, Serv-All Liquor.
Liquor store employees were not aware of the fire until a sheriff’s deputy told them to evacuate.
Condit said it took firefighters about an hour to quell the flames, and they remained on scene for several more hours to put out hot spots.
About 11 a.m., a wall collapsed on a gas main, causing a natural gas leak. Firefighters kept a spray of water on the line until a representative from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. was able to turn it off.
Five other fire agencies assisted Stanislaus Consolidated in battling the blaze and covering the stations.
In the end, the clothing/cellphone store and the liquor store were destroyed.
Joyful Servant Lutheran Church behind the liquor store was damaged by water used to fight the fire.
Condit said the damage to all the properties is approximately $700,000. He said some of the stores’ contents might be salvageable.
Nancy Vigil, whose parents own Vigil Wireless and Fashion Ware, said the store was closed when the fire started. Employees from neighboring businesses called Vigil to tell her about the fire.
She said she could see the column of smoke coming from the fire while driving there from her home in Oakdale.
Atchison was closed between Second and Fourth streets for several hours while firefighters battled the blaze. Crews reopened the roads and left the scene at 3:45 p.m.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. No one was injured.