Fire consumes large business complex

By: Gena Johnson | Warren Weekly | Published March 29, 2024


WARREN — A fire was reported to the Warren Fire Department at 6:55 p.m. on March 26 at a commercial building located at 26020 Groesbeck where at least nine businesses were occupying the 12-unit single-story building.

Fire crews arrived to find a partially involved older commercial building of approximately 24,000 square feet, said the Warren Fire Commissioner Wilburt “Skip” McAdams. Entry was made into the third unit at the north end of the complex, and firefighters were met by heavy smoke and fire conditions. According to the commissioner, the fire collapsed 80% of the roof. The fire was then fueled by winds of at least 30 mph, which drove the fire through the entire length of the approximately 150-foot building where there was a barbershop, hair salon and a massage therapy business.

There appeared to be no fire stops in the building, which allowed the fire to travel very quickly, according to the commissioner.

“Fire breaks are essentially a wall in an open attic area that separates two spaces and provides a four hour burn time from one side to the other. Theoretically, a fire on one side won’t burn to the other side for a period of four hours,” McAdams said. “This was an older building that can be determined was built before fire breaks were required.”

Drones were used at the fire scene, providing aerial views of the structure and thermal detection, which can determine whether people or bodies were in the building.

“After the collapse of the roof, we did make one additional entry, because at first, we couldn’t confirm that the owner of the barber shop had left his business. After we made entry and searched, just as we were completing that search, it was determined that his truck was no longer on the scene,” said the commissioner.  “He had left the scene by closing his business just before the fire came.”

According to firefighters, the fire was under control about an hour later at 7:52 p.m. leaving only hot spots to extinguish. The fire department reportedly began shutting down other hose lines and picking up equipment, remaining on the scene for approximately another 40 minutes.

“There were no injuries to civilians or firefighters,” McAdams said. “At the time of the fire, the barbershop and hair salon had just closed. The other businesses had closed earlier that evening.”

“Fire Marshal James Kazanowski and a building inspector were called to the scene to start the investigation,” McAdams said. “Due to the collapse of the roof, it was deemed too dangerous to enter and they postponed the investigation until March 27.”

“The preliminary investigation shows there is no evidence pointing toward arson,” McAdams said.

Some samples were pulled from the fire. The fire marshal will be meeting with a building official March 27 to determine, in both their opinions, if the structure is unsafe and needs to be torn down immediately, according to the commissioner.

The building was insured. If the building is deemed structurally unsound and ordered to be torn down, the owner would incur the cost, which, according to the commissioner, for a building that size could range from $50,000 to $75,000.