Salinas firefighters will be busy through the start of the holiday week as flames continue to burn the Dick Bruhn building in Oldtown Salinas.

The blaze persisted throughout Sunday after the massive fire broke out Saturday afternoon, destroying and gutting the vacant men’s clothing store.

“For (Sunday and Monday), we are continuing to block off the nearby streets and extinguish hot spots,” says Salinas Battalion Chief Scott Myhre. “There is still a fairly high risk of the building coming down and the facade collapsing and there is still active fire all over in little pockets.”

Federal investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms will be investigating the cause of the fire. Myhre says they will not start probing until Tuesday.

Myhre adds the building will not be taken down until the investigation starts and the building owner’s insurance representative is present.

“We do not have an investigations unit in the Salinas Fire Department, so when we have a suspicious fire in the magnitude of this one, it is good to have an outside organization come in,” he adds.

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Daylight is seen through the burned out roof.

 

The building is owned by developer Gerry Kehoe who owns the 201 Main complex as well as other properties in Oldtown Salinas.

“The building’s owner will need some permits in order to have the building come down and that will hopefully take place by the end of the week, up to 10 days for it to be completely knocked down,” says Myhre.

One of the issues is the close proximity of the Bruhn building to its neighbor, the Ariel Children’s Theatre. Fire suppression efforts are focused in the rear corner of the alley between the two businesses.

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Chat debris is seen strewn down West Alisal Street.

“We had some heat and smoke coming out of the separation between the buildings and they are both masonry and there are old Redwood braces that were left there and the heat has been smoldering there,” says Myhre. “Most of the fuel that is burning inside are classic combustibles, mostly lumber.”

Fire officials say witnesses saw a few people running from the front and rear of the building when smoke started pouring out of the second story just before 3pm on Saturday.

“We had reports of someone being inside still, so we made an aggressive interior attack to provide a search,” says Myhre. “After 15 minute, due to a number of factors, we pulled out and it turned into a defensive fire strategy.”

Myhre has been with Salinas Fire for over 20 years.

“What makes this one big for us is that it’s in Oldtown,” he says. “This building was vacant, so thankfully the impact of the fire didn’t put a business out of service.”

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A Salinas firefighter walks down the 300 block of South Main Street.

The goal is to keep the fire from spreading down the street and allow businesses to operate. As of noon on Sunday, many businesses had resumed operations, but a few were waiting for the power to be turned back on like the Ariel Children’s Theatre.”l

“The city doesn’t have the resources to fight a fire like this and we have a mutual aid system and every agency in Monterey County was affected, whether they were running calls in the city or helping us out here. I think there were 42 ladder trucks in the city yesterday,” Myhre says.

About 35-to-40 other calls for service happened during the Dick Bruhn fire, but many people stood by and watched the fire progress, Myhre says many firefighters were former Dick Bruhn customers.

“A lot of the senior members of those departments that helped out—me included—we came to get fitted for our uniforms on the second story on the far side.”

Others spectators reminisced about getting their high school letterman jackets sewn or renting prom tuxedos inside the building

“I think it affects a lot of people, because people knew the building and Dick Bruhn was an icon,” says Myhre. “It was a big deal with the store closed and this is an interesting moment too. The best thing is that the fire didn’t spread past that building and no one got hurt.”

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Sunlight makes shadows of burned out windows on West Alisal Street.

Firefighters will guard the building until it is knocked down and they will not go inside until at least Tuesday, when investigators.

“It’s very unstable inside and that will make the inspection interesting, Myhre says.

Staff photojournalist at Monterey County Weekly.

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