EL CENTRO — The historic Brooks Jewelry complex on North 6th and Main streets in El Centro caught fire around 3:30 a.m. early Monday, Feb. 11. The large structure building that houses several businesses remained on fire until late Monday morning as firefighters tried to extinguish the flames.
In discovering the blaze, a patrol sergeant reportedly followed a smoke trail to 598 Main Street. A plate glass window had been shattered on the west side of the building, and the second story was on fire inside the structure. The El Centro Fire Department was summoned to assist with the structure fire.
“Around 3:30 in the morning a dispatcher received a phone call that there was a possible fire at the Brooks Jewelry building,” said Battalion Chief Cedric Ceseña. “We had three stations respond. Upon arrival, we encountered heavy smoke coming out of the second story of the building. It was a second alarm turned quickly to a third alarm.”
The chief said they brought in units from the cities of Calexico, Brawley, Westmorland, Imperial, as well as Imperial County Fire Department, the Naval Air Facility El Centro, and Centinela State Prison crews.
Three fire hoses pumped large volumes of water into the building in further attempts to extinguish the flame.
An El Centro police report said a witness in the area saw a subject walking away from the area of the burning building carrying a ladder. The subject was last seen leaving the area on a BMX-style bicycle and riding north on 6th Street. The subject was described as wearing all black in the report. Based on the circumstances and evidence at this time, arson is suspected, the police reported. Power outages associated with the fire impacted the general area and was done so at the direction of El Centro Fire Department for safety precautions.
Even until 9 a.m., smoke could still be seen billowing from the top of the building. Through the windows of the building, valuables such as computers and office desks could be seen burning, witnesses said.
“We had a fire that was deep-seated in the building,” said Chief Ceseña. “We had an interior attack crew go in to fight the fire, however, they found there was a much higher fire load. Our initial resources were not enough to accommodate the fire. We maintained the fire to keep it in its place of origin and will continue to fight it out.”
“By the time I got down to the building it was already up in flames,” said Jacob Zavala, one of the building’s owners. “No one really knows what caused the fire yet. An investigation will be done to see what caused it. I’m still having a hard time grasping the fact that everything I’ve been working on for years is gone.”
If anyone has information regarding this case, please contact the El Centro Police Department Criminal Investigations Division, Detective Hernandez, at 760-337-4525 or via email email@example.com.