Fire Guts San Pablo, California Plumbing Store

A three-alarm fire blazed through a popular plumbing supply warehouse Friday night and left a thick cloud of black smoke lingering in the sky.

The fire began at 6:55 p.m. at San Pablo Plumbing Supply, on the 1100 block of Rumrill Boulevard. No one was injured, said Pinole Fire Chief Jim Parrott.

The blaze destroyed everything except the front office and storage facility at the rear of the structure and caused more than $500,000 worth of damage, Parrott said. He said the fire was contained within an hour; its cause is under investigation.

"There was a lot of valuable stuff inside, and there is a big loss here," Parrott said.

Residents of the Hacienda Trailer Park next door climbed on top of the roofs of their homes with garden hoses to assist firefighters. Before the fire's containment, there was concern it would spread to a nearby two-story apartment building, Parrott said.

Matthew Pence, head manager of the supply store, said the business was just beginning to recover from a brush fire a year ago that caused nearly $100,000 in damages to equipment and supplies.

"I feel out of a job," Pence said. "I am glad no one was in there."

Pence said he left the business around 5:30 p.m. and 45 minutes later he received a call from the alarm company telling him the warehouse was on fire. He said the supply store, which sold residential and industrial faucets, sinks, copper fittings and tubs, was prepared to expand in the next few months and has been in the area since 1971.

He said the owner, Ronald Reed, lives in Florida, but was visiting Lake Tahoe and was driving down to the site.

"I hope we can come back because this place has its own niche and there are not too many plumbing companies around here," Pence said.

The heavy smoke in the sky made Chris Adams leave church to come and check her store across the street.

Adams, who owns Chris' Kitchen, a soul food restaurant, said she feels bad for Pence and the rest of the employees who work there because they have a good relationship.

"When I saw that huge ball of fire in the sky, I was scared because thought it was my business, but I felt really bad when I saw it was the plumbing store," Adams said.