Crews battle a gas station fire near Porterville

TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Massive flames tore through a building that once stood as the Lake Express Market and Gas Station. Tulare County firefighters faced a number of challenges before managing to knock out the flames.

"It is an older building and the fire was heavily into the second floor and appears to drop down into the first floor," said Captain Joanne Bear, Tulare County Fire.

Fire officials said they easily used 100,000 gallons of water-- meaning they had to refill water tenders and engines and the closest hydrant was about a mile away.

"There was some safety concern about getting firefighters inside just because of the amount of fire that was happening at the time we got on scene," Captain Bear said.

It took fire crews nearly four hours to gain access to those flames. They had to take a defensive approach because of a roof collapse in the apartments above.

Mitch Brown, son of the property owner, said, "It's a total loss looks like to me."

As Tulare County firefighters spent the day mopping up charred debris, Brown assisted with the investigation helping firefighters with the outlay of the building that has been in his family almost four decades. Though the gas station had been vacant it still had working electricity and water.

"The pumps had a system to control the vapors so the power was still on."

Brown said the last tenant moved out October 2015.

"It's a tragedy for us, we had it on the market to sell and we were hoping to get it sold."

Priming it for sale he said the inside had been gutted so there were no smoke detectors.

"This was built way before sprinkler systems were required," said Brown.

Brown adds they had surveillance cameras inside to monitor any possible entries and drove by the property daily. Now he is just focused on what must happen next.

"Call the insurance company, hopefully rebuild or get it demoed, get it cleaned up, that's the first thing."

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
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