4-alarm fire destroys commercial building in downtown San Jose

San Jose fire crews spent much of the day at the scene of a four alarm fire in the heart of downtown.

Two-story flames and smoke shooting from the top of the engulfed building produced a spate of 911 calls for help. San Jose firefighters say the flames started around 10:20 a.m. Thursday on the top floor of a building at East San Fernando and South 2nd Streets. It quickly grew from one-alarm to four-alarms, requiring over 100 first responders to combat the threat.

"When we saw the amount of fire and the hazard, and knew that it was a vacant building, at that point there’s not point to take unnecessary risk. And we were gonna put our large water lines in place," said San Jose Fire Dept. Capt. Peter Caponio.

Officials say the building housed multiple businesses on the ground floor. Some were shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and others were new, and waiting for Santa Clara County health department restrictions to ease.

"When we could come back and occupy, and get going again, these were gonna be some of the first spaces that were going to be occupied. Now, this building, I don’t know if it can be saved now," said Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association.

Nearly three hours after the first calls, firefighters say the flames were out. But the resulting damage and water weight caused a roof collapse.

"It is an older construction, and so we had some bricks fall onto the ground out in front of us. And so we had a roof collapse. So we’re still in a pretty precarious, dangerous, position," said Capt. Caponio.

By afternoon, the view from the Fox 2 helicopter showed the burned out shell of the property, and the daunting task that lies head.

Knies is worried businesses first impacted by Covid, and now destroyed by flames, may never reopen. He adds, there have been several fires in the area the past few weeks.

"We’ll be very curious to hear the cause of this fire. Because we’ve had a lot of break-ins with the buildings being closed," said Knies.

Fire officials say there are no injuries, and that arson investigators are searching for a cause. But officials say at this time, this fire is not suspicious in nature.