Several businesses damaged in 3-alarm fire in Downtown Visalia

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Several businesses damaged in 3-alarm fire in Downtown Visalia

Dozens of firefighters from around Tulare County were called in to help contain a fast-moving blaze that caused major damage to three Downtown Visalia businesses this morning.

No one was hurt in the fire, and it's unclear what's next for the two restaurants and jewelry store touched by flames.

Though it was closed to traffic, many people gathered on Visalia's Main Street Wednesday to see the damage for themselves.

"It's just devastating looking at Mama K's," said Visalia's Laura Qualls. "You know that's somewhere that my friends meet up. We go there all the time for breakfast and for lunch and it's just really sad that it's gone."

The three-alarm fire broke out at around 1:30 Wednesday morning.

The first Visalia fire crews found fire inside Mama K's, and after cutting a ventilation hole in the roof, decided to start a defensive attack.

The fire moved west to east, and the roof over Mama K's, Café 225, and Acapulco Jewelry collapsed in stages.

Crews managed to contain the blaze to those businesses, but three others suffered smoke and water damage.

"That walk area in front of those buildings will be closed off and then they're going to board up a few other buildings for safety reasons," said Downtown Visalians Executive Director Steve Nelsen. "So it's not a real good look for downtown...it's sad that it happened."

But Nelsen praised the firefighters for their efforts.

He believes the buildings are insured, but he feels for those now who are now out of work-the day after Christmas.

"My concern is the employees," Nelsen said. "They don't have business interruption policy...what do the employees do?"

The Workforce Investment Board of Tulare County will host a free workshop next Thursday, where they'll review all unemployment resources available for employees affected by the Main Street fire.

The fire's cause is unknown.

Hours after it was extinguished, firefighters still couldn't go inside and start the investigative process, due to the extensive damage and structural hazards.

"They're really well-priced and it's just really good food," Qualls said. "And Café 225 does so much for the artist community...it would just be really sad to see these places not return."
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