Suspicious fire in Gilroy destroys Salvation Army trailer full of donations

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Gilroy fire officials are investigating an early morning fire that damaged a Salvation Army retail store and destroyed a trailer full of donated goods on Monday.

The fire department received a report of a fire at the Salvation Army thrift store and donation point located at 6701 Camino Arroyo shortly after 2:00 a.m.

The fire quickly went from one-alarm to two after fire crews saw heavy black smoke coming from the building.

Flames towering over two-stories high were seen shooting from the back of the building. 

Officials said the fire was contained mainly to a 53-foot tractor-trailer, but a loading door burned and a loading dock was destroyed.

This isn't the first time fire crews responded to an incident like this in the area.

A similar fire occurred earlier this year at a Home Goods store nearby, prompting investigators to deem Monday's fire as suspicious.

Gilroy Fire Division Chief Mary Gutierrez said investigators have to wait until the power to the building is back on before they're able to review video surveillance footage of the area.

"It's a really nice facility," Gutierrez said. "It's a shame."

After crews managed to put the fire out, they struggled to get to the contents of the burned trailer, which were smoldering.

The trailer was difficult to access and firefighters had to call in a tow truck to pull the trailer away from the building.

"We had a lot of trouble getting to it," Gutierrez said.
Once the trailer was accessible, a front loader was used to get the contents out of the trailer.
Salvation Army Major John Desplancke said the contents were bound for a central processing center in San Jose and would have eventually been distributed to six stores in the Silicon Valley area.

Desplancke estimated the loss at $3,000 to $5,000.

The money from the sales of the goods was slated to help fund a 96-bed Salvation Army drug and alcohol recovery center, Desplancke said.
"This hurts the community that needs the most assistance," Desplancke said.

The store is expected to be closed for some time.

"There's just a lot of damage," Gutierrez said.

Fire officials yellow-tagged the warehouse and store, making areas of the property off-limits.

The fire caused some structural damage and until the structural issues are addressed, the building will remain yellow-tagged, Gutierrez said. 

Firefighters from Gilroy, Morgan Hill and the South Santa Clara County Fire District worked together to put out the blaze.