Downtown Visalia furniture store damaged by fire

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Owners of Casa Bella Furniture Store in downtown Visalia thought they were clocking out for the day Wednesday evening but instead came across a fire blazing in an alley behind the store.

Reyna Gutierrez says, "We left a little later than normal but if we had left before the fire, this could have destroyed our business."

She explains they tried putting out the flames with a fire extinguisher but quickly realized there was a gas leak - and called 911 immediately.

The Visalia Fire Department arrived shortly before 8 pm and put the fire out in minutes, but the bigger issue called for more attention.

"The crew putting the fire out there was some pretty spectacular fireworks from the power that was coming off the boxes," says Battalion Chief Derek Fricke.

Fricke says it was all hands on deck with 21 personnel on scene until 11 pm.

They had to wait for Southern California Edison and the gas company since the gas leak could not be controlled until the power was off.

He says this fire could have taken a turn for the worse.

"The other issue we could of had is if we had gas inside, it would have ignited," he said. "If the crew would have been here five minutes late, the store could have been well involved."

Two windows were left shattered and a few items were damaged inside, but the rest of the furniture store was untouched.

For the owners, who started their business at the beginning of the pandemic, avoiding a costly disaster is a blessing.

Reyna says, "Honestly, I was just thanking God no one was hurt and our business is fine."

Damage to the store is estimated at $25,000, but the value of the property that was saved is $700,000.

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