Jan. 15--With smoke still drifting out of the Empire Professional Building, some dozen Fairfield firefighters and county fire investigators on Saturday continued to probe the cause and origin of the blaze that gutted the two-story structure on Friday night.
As several firefighting vehicles, including a mammoth ladder truck, remained on the scene -- in the 700 block of Empire Street at Webster Street in downtown Fairfield -- Fire Capt. Bob Stoffel said flames caused the roof to collapse.
"The roof is on the first floor," he said in the early afternoon, standing on Webster near the rear of the 20,000-square-foot building, a few steps from a pile of charred office furniture, computer terminals, books and paper files.
Stoffel said the complex -- which housed the offices of the American Cancer Society, the Solano County Bar Association, psychologist and real estate offices, among others -- was unoccupied when the first of five alarms was called in at 6:53 p.m. Some 50 firefighters, including crews from Vacaville, Dixon, Travis Air Force Base and Suisun, among a dozen, responded to the scene, spraying water from all sides of the building. No one was injured, and Stoffel estimated the damage to be in the seven-figure range.
"It's in the millions -- that's all we know," he said.
As he spoke, with smoke drifting into the surrounding neighborhood, a county building inspector tried to determine if the building was safe for investigators, who could be seen standing on the edge of the second floor and in a stairwell.
As press time Saturday night, Stoffel said the cause and origin of the blaze were still unknown. Firefighters planned to secure the building -- which stretched half a block between Empire and Kentucky streets -- and investigators will return to the site after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
"We'll be boarding it up and we'll be back on Tuesday morning," Stoffel said.