Investigators sift through rubble of 41st Avenue blaze
By Cathy Kelly - Sentinel correspondent
Posted: 01/08/2009 01:30:17 AM PST

CAPITOLA - Investigators combed through the tangled and blackened debris of what was once a 41st Avenue furniture warehouse Wednesday, searching for clues to what caused the Sunday night blaze.

Capt. Patrick Sharp, senior investigator with the Central Fire Protection District, said it could take several days to discover the source, as it was time-consuming to remove several wooden beams and other large debris.
Wednesday was the first day investigators were able to make use of some large machinery to sift through the wreckage of what was once the two-story WorkSpace showroom and warehouse.

"We don't have anything conclusive at this point, but we have a couple possibilities," Sharp said. "It's going to be a tough one."

The fire is not considered suspicious at this time, he said.
But it did a lot of damage, he added, as the flames were more intense than a house fire, due to all the furniture that served as fuel.

Investigators have determined that the blaze broke out in the front room of the 20,000-square-foot building, a room that included a shipping and receiving area.

Three CSST "cadaver dogs" were working at the scene Wednesday also, and Sharp said they were called in to make sure that there were no homeless people inside whom firefighters might have been unaware of. The dogs found nothing, he said.The 11 p.m. fire destroyed WorkSpace, which is about 30 feet behind HomeSpace, a retail store owned by the same family.

HomeSpace escaped serious damage, but remained closed Wednesday. A recorded message stated the store would open in a day or two, after electricity and water service were restored.

A neighboring furniture store, SC-41, sustained water damage from the 3 million gallons of water firefighters said were necessary to extinguish the flames.

A representative of SC-41 said Wednesday that the business would be closed for an estimated three weeks while water damage to the floor, walls and furniture is repaired.

Next door, investigators will be back at work Thursday, Sharp said.
"We got the first batch of stuff moved, so we can use our hand tools to dig through and then we'll need the tractor again," he said. "We have a second story that collapsed; we have to dig down."

Correspondent Peter Kirn contributed to this report.
Contact Cathy Kelly at 429-2436 or jcopeland@santacruzsentinel.com