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Update: Business Owners Devastated by Strip Mall Fire

Ten businesses were damaged by the early morning fire at the Alvarado Place Shopping Center.

Updated: 7:18 p.m.

Gursewak Gill, owner of Bombay Pizza House, received a call from his alarm company at 1:30 a.m. this morning.

The company said that a window had broken and there might be a burglary. He rushed to the scene as fast as he could.

“When I got there, it was a totally different story,” Gill said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

What he saw was a four-alarm fire that ripped through his business and several others at the Alvarado Place Shopping Center, located at 31875 Alvarado Blvd.

The fire started about 1:05 a.m. and was contained around 3:30 a.m., according to the Alameda County Fire Department.

More than 50 firefighters and 17 fire vehicles responded to the scene. According to a fire official, flames extended above the roofline 30 feet into the air. At one point, the roof of the strip mall collapsed nearly taking firefighters who were on the roof with it, said spokeswoman Aisha Knowles.

One firefighter received a laceration to the back of his hand and was treated at a nearby hospital.

About seven stores — including a beauty salon, a travel agency and multiple restaurants — were burnt down with the roof collapsing over several of them. Three others sustained smoke and water damage, fire officials said.

Pho Vina, which business owners in the area said opened two weeks ago, also suffered significant damage. A “grand opening” sign still hangs from its façade.

“The fire was massive,” Gill said.

About 50 residents in an apartment building behind the retail center were also evacuated for precautionary measures when the fire erupted, but they have since been allowed to return home, fire officials said.

As of 11 a.m. this morning, fire investigators were still on scene trying to figure out what caused the blaze.

According to fire investigator Darrell Jones, there were no sprinkling systems installed in the 36-year-old building. That allowed the first to spread quickly.

Meanwhile, local business owners were stunned by the loss.

“Everything’s gone. My whole investment is gone,” said Gill, who opened his restaurant 10 months ago.

He said he and his staff of four employees will be out of work for several months.

The Magic Touch Beauty Salon was also totaled in the fire.

Cheri Nguyen, who has run the salon with her mother for 14 years, said they saw up to 50 clients a day and lost at least $100,000 in damages.

Having been at the scene for several hours, Nguyen seemed to be taking the loss in stride this morning.

“Say bye to mommy’s work,” Nguyen told her young daughter before leaving.

Though Raja Sweets and Indian Cuisine didn’t sustain fire damage, it suffered a significant amount of smoke and water damage, owner Makhan Bains said.

Bains, who has ran his business at the location for 17 years, said the restaurant will have to be renovated and will be closed indefinitely.

“We might be closed for several months,” he said.

Royal Fabrics would have celebrated its eight-year anniversary on Oct. 21. The business has been the family’s lifeline, said the owner’s daughter, Harpreet Kaur.

The business was among those that experienced the heaviest damage.

“This is what we fed off of,” Kaur said. “We had so much inventory here.”

She estimates a loss of about $300,000 in inventory alone, which included expensive silk and fabrics for Indian outfits, wedding clothes, accessories, religious items and jewelry. An outfit made for a wedding was also burned, she said.

“It’s a really big loss,” Kaur said. “There’s so much. I don’t know where to start.”

Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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Christine Rolleri October 10, 2012 at 08:45 PM
We need to gather together and support these businesses. Can someone start a fund raiser?
Zade October 10, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Are you saying these businesses do not have insurance? Were they running the business without basic insurance against such accidents? Also, how did this fire broke? Were there proper sprinkler system in place? Did city inspect and certify these premises are up to the code?]
mario mario October 10, 2012 at 11:11 PM
@ Jade, you never get back what you put in. Its easy to point fingers after the fact...lighten up
Zade October 10, 2012 at 11:36 PM
What is this now - are we living in 1900s? "You never get back what you put in" is your answer for raising a fund? The concept of insurance/fire alarm/smoke detectors/sprinkler system is probably alien to you as well. This idea of 'raising a fund' is just fantastic. Really. No one is accountable any more. Just screw it up & raise a fund.
Cheri Nguyen October 10, 2012 at 11:49 PM
@Zade, YES we do have insurance! We are NOT stupid business owners. You can not operate a business without it. We wouldn't beable to renew our leases with out it. Come on! We just lost our business to a fire! Its NOT just a "business" to us. It was more then that! All our relationships we have built over 14yrs. All the regulars that come in with their children now all grown up and off to college. 'Y mom was there 7 days a week 8am to 7 pm......now??? Its way more than just a business to us!
Zade October 10, 2012 at 11:59 PM
@ Cheri Nguyen: I am really sorry for your loss. I cannot even imagine how hard it is to rebuild. I was just asking a sincere question, when someone talked about raising a fund. The loss here is far too greater to be helped with $20.00 donations. Built-in safeguards are supposed to come in handy here! I am glad you have insurance. I hate to ask you this, but eventually I would like to know how the fire was caused and why the damage was so intense. Were there sprinkler system, smoke alarms, fire alarms? It is ludicrous in this day and age we still see this kind of fire damage & destruction right in the center of dwellings & business center. Not acceptable.
Thomas Clarke October 11, 2012 at 12:05 AM
I hope all of you do well in coming out of this tragedy. I sure hope the arson cops are checking Zade out.
Zade October 11, 2012 at 12:14 AM
@ Thomas Clarke - what you are implying. Tell us more if you know something. You sound like a man who knows a lot. Are you the man who certified these premises to be up to safety code?
Irene October 11, 2012 at 12:23 AM
I passed by there this morning and was saddened by the damage. BomBay pizza and Raja Sweets were two my favorite places. I hope everyone is able to be build.
mr haho October 11, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Very sad I hope the best for the business owners
Thomas Clarke October 11, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Zade, I am no implying a thing. I am calling upon the local arson authorities to consider that you seem obsessed with this tragedy. Arsonists often exhibit such obsessions. Hopefully you will be found out soon before more suffer.
Zade October 11, 2012 at 02:10 AM
@ Thomus Clarke - I would respond to your unfair, probably stemming from insanity, allegation with deserved verbose. But I will ignore you this time. Suffice to say, I am looking out to making UC safer to live & work. You are trying to divert tax dollars to be wasted on inane act.
Mona Taplin October 11, 2012 at 04:33 AM
I'm so sorry for the loss every business owner suffered. One thing people aren't taking into consideration is the income loss. goods are insured- but I doubt if income would be.
Harpreet October 11, 2012 at 04:37 AM
I grew up in Union City and my mom knows many of the shop owners. When you invest your life in something and see it go up in smoke is not easy and stings for a long time. It is easy for outsiders to have opinions but please remember that the shop owners are reading this. Don't be rude and talk out of your you know what.
christine sullivan October 11, 2012 at 05:43 AM
is this where columbus pizza used to be & where perrys liquors is??? is this why there has been helicopters around? or is that something else?
Cheri Nguyen October 11, 2012 at 05:57 AM
@christine, Yes this is where columbus Pizza was. @zade...they are unsure what caused the fire at this time.
Mandy October 11, 2012 at 10:54 AM
Has there been any indication as to when any information re the cause of fire will be made public?
Viviana Valeriano October 11, 2012 at 06:01 PM
I have lived in Union City for 41 years and I was devastated when I heard and saw the fire that burned these nine businesses. I was so used to seeing these businesses and now I am heart broken and sad for the business owners and the community of Union City. Some of those businesses have been there since I was growing up and now they are gone.
comrealest October 11, 2012 at 06:04 PM
@ Zade should a tragedy befall you, I hope you feel like a dumb ass when someone from the community helps you even though "Built-in safeguards are supposed to come in handy here!" could apply to you. Quit rubbing salt in these wounds and go back under your troll bridge.
Jeanette Mericle October 16, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Would love to help with a Fundraiser! I can host a Fit Club in UC to raise money for these owners. Please contact me @ Mericlemaker@yahoo.com or my Facebook: Mericlemaker. You can call me also at (916)595-4298 Thanks Christine!

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