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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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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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