A three-alarm fire swept through a small shopping center in Clovis Tuesday evening, destroying three storefronts – two of them operating at the time – and threatening a nearby apartment complex.
A passerby spotted smoke coming from the roof of the shopping center at Shaw and Peach avenues about 6 p.m., Clovis fire officials said.
Clovis firefighters immediately evacuated six people from Antojitos Selenes, a Mexican restaurant, and Tower Smoke shop, Clovis fire Battalion Chief Bret Black said. A third storefront was vacant. All of the occupants escaped unharmed.
As the flames grew in intensity, Clovis police said residents were being asked to evacuate from an apartment complex to the south of the blaze, at 2127 Peach Ave. Fire Chief John Binaski later said residents were not evacuated but merely asked to seal their windows since flaming tar paper was flying about from renovations being done to the outside of the shopping center.
Scaffolding around the structure for renovations made it difficult for firefighters to battle the blaze, Binaski said. Clovis fire crews were joined by firefighters from Fresno and Fresno County, he said.
The fire sent up a large plume of smoke visible across a wide area of the city. Police blocked traffic in both directions on Peach Avenue. Shaw Avenue was temporarily closed, and traffic was snarled for a time. A large crowd gathered nearby to watch the flames.
The shopping center was destroyed and the roof collapsed. Fire crews continued to pour water on the smoldering rubble into the night. Officials expected it would be some time before they could investigate the cause.
Peach Avenue just south of Shaw was expected to remain closed for several hours as firefighters investigate the cause of the blaze.
Binaski estimated the damage at $580,000.