A fire in downtown Merced tore through an Asian market Sunday but did not cause any injuries, officials said.
The fire department received the report of the fire at 10:19 a.m., said fire Chief Michael Wilkinson. The first crew on the scene found heavy smoke rising from the roof at the back of the building on the 600 block of Main Street.
Additional fire teams from the city, as well as from Atwater, Turlock and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, were called to help, authorities said.
The fire destroyed much of the interior of the market, which sold Asian food items and other goods.
“The cause of the fire is unknown at this time,” Wilkinson said. “We have investigators on the scene … but it will be a long process.”
Wilkinson said authorities did not know of any injuries, but the structure was not secure enough for investigators to enter as of Sunday afternoon.
Kevin Hammon, whose computer repair business Binary Systems is on the same block, said the owners of the market recently had moved into the building, relocating from another shop farther southeast on Main Street.
“It’s sad for the owners. They’ve only been there for a few months,” he said. “It’s sad to see all their hard work go up in flames.”
A call to a phone number listed for the UC Oriental Market and Restaurant rang unanswered Sunday. The business also was identified as the Kialee Market, but it was unclear whether the new owners used that name; a number for that business was not listed.
Upon hearing of the fire Sunday morning, Hammon said he rushed downtown to check on his business and found the market in flames. Hammon said he spotted the owner and, although he doesn’t know her well, hugged her.
“She burst into tears,” he said.
Hammon said he hopes the city will help the business rebuild “with new fixtures and, hopefully, an improved store.”
Merced Mayor-elect Mike Murphy said he was in church when he heard about the fire. He credited firefighters for keeping flames from spreading to adjacent and nearby buildings.
“Our fire crews did exactly what they were trained to do,” he said. “Things could have been a lot worse.”
The market is adjacent to Reinero’s Trophy Room lounge and restaurant, which saw a storage area of its part of the building go up in flames last month.
Murphy, whose legal office is located downtown, said it was too early to know what the city might do to deal with the damaged market, its black, gutted interior visible through the large, street-front windows.
“I’m sorry for the loss the business and property owners experienced today,” he said.