Blaze engulfs Oakland supermarket
Blaze engulfs Oakland supermarket
(11-11) 17:10 PST OAKLAND -- A four-alarm fire that created a plume of smoke visible from San Francisco on Friday morning largely destroyed a supermarket in Oakland's Chinatown neighborhood, the second time in eight years the business has burned.
Federal investigators joined local authorities in an investigation into the blaze at Sun Hop Fat 1 Supermarket but have found no evidence to suggest foul play.
However, Tony Tieu and Lynn Truong, the Vietnamese American married couple that owns the business, said they believe the fire had to have been started by a person, whether intentionally or not.
"Somebody did this to me,'' said Tieu, watching firefighters with his wife and 6-year-old daughter. "Last night, when I went home, I checked everything.''
The 12,000-square-foot store at 501 E. 12th St. near Fifth Avenue was largely destroyed, with the roof caved in and the interior gutted. Tieu, who was insured, estimated the cost of the damage would be close to $2 million.
"It's just terrible. It breaks your heart,'' said Truong. The couple has owned the market since 1994. They also own Sun Hop Fat Supermarket at 5424 International Blvd.
Hugh Reid, a security guard who spends the night atop the 12th Street market's roof, said he neither heard nor saw anything suspicious until he heard a "loud pop'' shortly before 6 a.m. and then saw smoke pouring through a door to the roof.
Reid rushed to the street, where a passing motorist called firefighters, who arrived at 6:03 a.m. to find the building engulfed in flames.
"I'm glad I got off the roof as quick as I did,'' Reid said.
Nearly 70 firefighters spent about 90 minutes battling the inferno, and kept the flames from burning an adjacent building.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined the Oakland Fire and Police departments and the Alameda County arson task force in investigating the fire.
In 1997, the Sun Hop Fat 1 Supermarket became one of four Asian markets in the East Lake district damaged by arson in less than a year. Shortly before the 1997 blaze, Tieu and Truong recalled, they received a letter in Vietnamese requesting money. Nothing similar occurred this time, they said.
Truong said, however, that her security company called at about midnight telling her a front door alarm had been detected; she asked the company to check it out and call her if necessary.
The next call came when the alarm company notified her that the building had burned, she said.
"Maybe somebody was trying to steal something. Maybe it was a crazy person,'' Truong said as she watched firefighters extinguish hot spots, and public works crews clearing debris from the street.
Nearby stood one of the market's nearly 20 employees, Tyson Bu, who has worked as a Sun Hop Fat butcher for the last 15 years. Bu, who is married with two children, 6 and 14 years of age, looked stunned.
"The problem is for the employees, too,'' he said.
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