MARTINEZ -- A building and eight cars were destroyed, but nobody was injured in a two-alarm fire in Martinez early Friday morning, a Contra Costa County Fire Protection District official said.
The fire began after 3:15 a.m. at a one-story building at 2540 Pacheco Blvd. which housed a commercial business and an apartment, the building's owner, Robert Fitzstephens, of Walnut Creek, said. The business restored old cars and sold them, according to Fitzstephens.
Something cooking in the kitchen caused the fire to start, fire inspector George Laing said. A man and woman living in the apartment were not injured because one left¿ before the fire broke out and the other awoke to smoke after the fire started, Laing said.
"I was watching the news this morning, and whoa, the building I own is on fire," Fitzstephens said by phone. "So I'm just trying to deal with everything. It's a nightmare."
Fitzstephens said he rented the building to its current tenants about a year ago and that there have been issues in the past. He said that neighbors complained to him about people coming and going.
"There's been a lot of activity there," he said.
The fire occurred just two-tenths of a mile from a fire station that was shut down in January because of budget cuts. Crews from Fire Station 14 on Jones Street in Martinez, about 1 1/2 miles away, tackled the blaze. It was brought under control at 4:04 a.m.
"The sooner the apparatus arrives at a scene, the sooner you can start directly attacking a fire," Laing said. "The sooner you can directly attack a fire, the less it's going to spread, and you're going to have fewer injuries, fewer damages. It's all theoretical in this case, and it's hard to say how things might have been different in this case. But is there an impact? Sure there's an impact."
Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4789 and follow him at Twitter.com/3rdERH.