Restaurant, stores destroyed in San Juan blaze

Orient Express was seriously damaged in the fire.

A fire Saturday destroyed a decades-old building at 35 Washington St. in historic San Juan Bautista housing a Chinese restaurant, antique shop and lamp store.
The fire was reported at 12:46 p.m. Saturday to the building near the corner of Fourth and Monterey streets in downtown San Juan Bautista, said county Fire Chief Mike O’Connor. There were occupants in the restaurant at the time, but nobody was injured in the blaze. O’Connor did point out that some firefighters suffered from exhaustion while responding.
It appears as though the blaze started in the warehouse to the rear of the building, while the cause remains unclear in the ongoing investigation, O’Connor said. The fire department has commissioned help in the investigation from Monterey County’s arson task force, but O’Connor indicated it remains a routine examination at this point.
“We look at every fire with a neutral look,” he said Monday.
Some other businesses were affected and closed after the blaze, but were allowed to open Sunday.
O’Connor said it was the first major incident under the countywide fire department consolidation. He said the response went “perfectly” and he noted that crews called in additional help from Aromas.
O’Connor estimated it would be at least six months before any businesses would be able to reopen at that location.
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