Fresno's Peerless Building damaged by dumpster fire, firefighters investigating

The Fresno Fire Department says this is the third dumpster fire in the area in the last two months.

Ana Torrea Image
Saturday, February 10, 2024
Fresno's Peerless Building damaged by dumpster fire, firefighters investigating
The Peerless Building is an iconic building in Downtown Fresno.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Peerless Building is an iconic building in Downtown Fresno.

But early Friday morning, someone lit a dumpster behind the historic structure on fire.

The fire then spread to a portion of the building. The fire left behind a charred wall, and the flames shattered a window, which is now boarded up.

"We see alley fires," said Nader Assemi, who is one of the co-owners of the Peerless Building.

People are trying to stay warm, but this one obviously has a slightly different scale to it.

Assemi has co-owned the Peerless Building for several years.

For him, the Peerless Building is a passion project to help revitalize the downtown area.

"These are not projects that put any money in your pockets, not yet," said Assemi. "Hopefully, one day, we get there. But right now, the money all gets reinvested in the building."

Co-owner Nader Assemi is frustrated about what happened. But he's not letting that stop him from trying to help revitalize the area.

Security video shared with Action News showed a man in what looks like a blue or purple jacket walking to the dumpster.

He then drags what appears to be some sort of stick and tosses it. He then walks to another dumpster, pulls out a blue plastic bag and places it by the dumpster.

Moments after he walks away, smoke can be seen starting to rise, and the fire starts to grow.

"It's infuriating as a business owner," said Nader. "Because we have a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, along with all our tenants here."

Minutes after the fire begins to grow, the man returns. He then starts to push some of the dumpsters closer to the fire. He walks away again just as firefighters begin to pull in.

Another security camera shows the intensity of the flames and the smoke billowing up.

The Fresno Fire Department is now investigating the incident as arson.

"But because it was noticed to be somewhat suspicious, an investigator was called," said Josh Sellers with the Fresno Fire Department.

Fresno Fire said this isn't the only time firefighters responded to dumpster fires in that area.

The department added that this is the third dumpster fire there in the last two months.

"I can't say whether or not the two other fires are suspicious in nature," said Sellers. "But now that this is an investigation, the investigators are now looking into that."

Assemi told Action News despite the frustration he feels, he's looking to turn something negative, into something positive.

"Potentially opens opportunity," said Assemi. "People are saying, 'Hey, you know, maybe do some mural at the back of the building.' I don't know, incorporate the smoke damage on the brick into art."

Another business in the Peerless Building told Action News they smelled smoke coming into work.

While what happened is disheartening, they're not going to let this stop them.

"We've got almost 20 tenants here," said Assemi. "All small businesses that have been really intentional about making a choice about being downtown and investing their dollars here. We're kind of all in it together."

Assemi said a remediation company would be coming out on Saturday to check out the damage.

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