A three-alarm fire on May 7 in Indio was caused by humans, officials say. (June 8, 2015) Colin Atagi/The Desert Sun
Investigators concluded that a person caused a three-alarm fire that destroyed a vacant commercial building in Indio on May 7, but it's unknown if the act was malicious.
The fire began on the eastern side of the former supermarket at Rubidoux Street and Requa Avenue. But due to its "intensity and consumption," investigators could not identify a specific origin point and the exact cause is undetermined, according to a Cal Fire report obtained by The Desert Sun.
The building, which used to be home to a Lucky grocery store, was vacant for years and its electricity was shut off at the time of the fire.
A "significant number" of sprinkler heads were missing and the system, which had been tampered with, was not working, according to the report. The sprinkler system was on the west side of the building and the report didn't clarify whether an operable system would have prevented the fire from spreading.
Most of the 50,000-square-foot building had been vacant for years and residents said transients often occupied the former grocery store. The fire report confirmed there was a "notable transient presence" outside and possibly inside the building, but it did not identify them as possible suspects in the blaze.
Grapefruit incident report:
Flames erupted from the building during the fire and they created black smoke that was visible in Palm Springs. Fifty firefighters from multiple stations responded and they contained the fire in about three hours.
The building, which is owned by prominent developer John Wessman, was a total loss. As firefighters battled flames on May 7, Wessman said the remains would need to be demolished.
3-alarm fire burns commercial building in Indio Thursday morning. (May 7, 2015) Denise Goolsby/The Desert Sun
The roof was destroyed and nothing was left but piles of burned debris, separating the entrance from the back wall. In the rear was scaffolding that appeared unstable and ready to collapse.
Six businesses shared a wall with the destroyed building. Each sustained water damage, as well as damage from firefighters having to force their way into the units and check the fire's extension through the attic, according to the report.
Those businesses were: The 99 Cent Center, Teresa's Sassy Scissors, Vende Agua, Berta Alterations and More, Desert Choice Realty and Raspado's Kios.
Roubidoux incident report:
Phone numbers to the businesses were disconnected and owners could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Yellow security tape blocked off the six units in the days following the fire. Business owners left signs indicating they would reopen in a week, but red city-issued signs warned passersby not to enter the units.