On Wednesday, crews used heavy moving equipment to begin the arduous task of dismantling the burnt remnants of a two-story building in Los Altos.
Capt. Matt Mokhtarian of the Santa Clara County Fire Department said, "We brought in some specialized equipment to help systematically dismantle this building in order for our fire investigators to complete a safe origin and cause investigation."
The demolition, delayed by weeks, began from the bottom up. Vehicles from an underground parking lot of the building, located at 4600 El Camino Real, were pulled above ground to clear the path for the large equipment.
The site and the clearance process have snarled traffic along the major north-south thoroughfare on the Peninsula and upper South Bay.
"What people are doing — because they don’t want to go down further — is they’re making an illegal U-turn right there. And I almost ran into people a couple of times," explained John Gonia, a San Jose resident who drove 15 miles to have lunch at a nearby restaurant.
The mess affecting this town of 30,700 people started with a three-alarm fire early Christmas morning. Multiple businesses were gutted by flames that pushed into the pre-dawn darkness.
"We mobilized lots of equipment from a handful of different agencies that helped us with mutual aid with this fire," said Mokhtarian.
The fire not only destoryed businesses at the fire site, but also affected the surrounding area due to barricades erected after firefighting operations along El Camino Real. This led to a reduction in customer flow to nearby businesses.
"It’s been a big disruption for our parking lot and our customers," said Kevin Roberts, owner of Armadillo Willy’s BBQ restaurant.
Fire officials outlined a three-phase plan for removing the eyesore. Once investigators determine the fire's origin and cause, the remaining wreckage will be demolished, and affected roadways will reopen.
"I think it helps if nothing else. Traffic has been really bad along El Camino (Real)," said Los Altos resident Devin Groadin.
Fire officials did not provide a timeline for completing the work resulting from a disaster that has left some with haunting memories from the holidays.
Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter), @JesseKTVU and on Instagram, @jessegontv.