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Plaza Fire Guts Stores, Injures 3

May 20, 1985|MAYERENE BARKER | Times Staff Writer

A stubborn fire that burned through a Canoga Park shopping center for more than two hours Sunday destroyed at least six businesses and injured three firefighters.

Authorities said the blaze in the two-story De Soto Plaza in the 8900 block of De Soto Avenue caused an estimated $400,000 in damage. However, operators of one store said their lost contents were worth at least $500,000.

Officials said the fire started at about 12:45 p.m. in the bar area of the Toy Cannon Lounge, a restaurant and bar at 8903 De Soto Ave., near the south end of the shopping center.

Spreads Through Attic

Despite the efforts of 80 firefighters from 14 engine companies, flames spread to other businesses through a half-block-long common attic, said Greg Acevedo, a Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman.

Other shops destroyed were the Asia Market, the Accu Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs store and office space above the three stores. Authorities said three second-floor offices also were gutted.

An employee of Quantech, a large television and appliance store two doors from the bar, said fire broke through the roof and walls of his building. He said flames destroyed about half of the $1-million worth of televisions, videocassette recorders, computers and other electronic items in his store.

He said that security guards were being hired to watch over the remaining merchandise Sunday night, but that "we're all but out of business."

Although customers were in the bar when the fire started, no one was injured, authorities said.

Grocery store operator Kyung Lee said he and his mother were working in the family's small market when they smelled smoke and left the building.

Merchant's Disbelief

Lee said that at first he was confident his store would escape the fire. But about a half-hour after the blaze erupted, flames billowed into the shop and the small Oriental market was consumed by flames as Lee watched in disbelief.

Also threatened for a time was the studio of KDSK, a closed-circuit radio station that provides top 40 music for cable television companies in the San Fernando and Conejo valleys.

Dean Schactel, a disc jockey for the station, stood in the shopping center parking lot and gave an eyewitness account of the blaze to announcer John Vance, who remained in the studio.

Vance, who said he was prepared to grab microphones and records and flee if the fire burned closer, said he remained on the air, "telling people to stay out of the area."

"It didn't look very good for us for a while," he said. "We're lucky."

Fall Through Roof

Initially, six fire companies responded, Acevedo said. The number of engine companies was increased as flames spread through the attic area.

The three firefighters were injured when they fell through the roof of the bar. Two were treated for smoke inhalation by paramedics at the scene. The third, Lawrence Taylor, was treated for a sprained foot and cuts to his face at Northridge Hospital Medical Center, officials said.

The fire attracted hundreds of spectators, including residents of an apartment building across an alley from the burned stores.

Some said they feared the fire would spread to their building. But fire officials said the dwelling units were not threatened.

Acevedo said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

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