A fire that ignited Tuesday afternoon in a grassy area behind a Pacheco, Calif., self-storage facility burned about 50 units and sent billowing smoke across nearby highways. The blaze near the junction of Interstate 680 and State Highway 4 started at about 2:45 p.m. and quickly spread to the large storage units, some containing vehicles, at the back of the 500-unit Pacheco Mini Storage at 5146 Pacheco Blvd., according to sources.
It took fire crews two hours to contain the two-alarm brush fire, which produced smoke that was visible for miles and flames that were as high as nearby palm trees. “It was pretty scary when we first saw it,” said Kelly Van Shaik, who manages the facility.
Firefighters struggled to put out the fire as wind and heat fueled it. In addition to destroying grassy patches and the storage units, it knocked down power lines. No one was injured.
Access to the back of the storage facility is now restricted until deemed safe, said Van Shaik, who’s contacting the tenants whose units were damaged. “We've had some customers calling in seeing if their stuff is affected. We had one woman come in and hers is completely gone. She is devastated,” she said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. “We don't know—I mean, a cigarette butt, a spark from a car, the construction that’s on the freeway. It could have been anything,” said Van Shaik, who was told it could take up to two weeks before a cause is known.
Investigators have spoken with people living in a nearby homeless encampment, who’ve caused problems for the storage operator. “Garbage, trash, their stuff, breaking into the property, cutting the fence … I mean all of the above,” Van Shaik said.
Ninety percent of these types of fires are caused by “human activity” such as a tossed cigarette or a vehicle malfunction, which can quickly ignite dry vegetation, according to Steve Hill, a public information officer for the Contra Costa Fire Protection District. “These are very high fire-danger times, and it’s going to be worse between now and October. We need people to be responsible,” he said.
Although insurance will cover some of the damage at the storage facility, telling her customers their belongings have been destroyed is difficult, Van Shaik said. “Their lives are in there. Their kid’s stuff, their stuff. It's just hard. The phone calls are going to be really tough today.”
In addition to offering traditional and vehicle self-storage, Pacheco Mini is an authorized U-Haul truck-rental dealer.
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