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San Francisco Bay Area community news

Family’s second fire ravages Redwood City business

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
February 20, 2007

When 99 Cent and Over owner Amadeo Penas’ wife called him Monday to tell him their business was on fire, he first thought it was a joke; four years after a fire gutted their Oakland home, it seemed unlikely to happen twice.

Sadly, it was all too real. Penas’ family and several customers helped him clear charred merchandise and debris from the front of the store on Monday afternoon after a two-alarm blaze that started in the bathroom of his discount store at 1810 El Camino Real around 10:30 a.m.

“How the hell am I going to get through this again?” Penas asked, looking at his sooty storefront.

He estimates it will take $80,000 and two months to reopen the store, which normally sells about $15,000 a month in merchandise. His five-year lease prevents him from closing for good.

The fire spread quickly through the ground-floor business, filling the neighboring ACE Cash Express with smoke and displacing a tenant in an apartment upstairs, according to Penas.

Although the fire was contained by 11:01 a.m., fire crews kept El Camino closed in both directions until 12:30 p.m. to keep emergency personnel safe.

“We didn’t want anyone to get hit by a car,” Redwood City Fire Battalion Chief Geoffrey Balton said. “[Traffic] was pretty bad.”

While 99 Cent and Over was open for business when the fire started, the ACE Cash Express was closed for the day. No one was injured.

Carol Stephen, who lives in the apartment above 99 Cent and Over, was driving back to her apartment Monday morning when she saw tendrils of smoke coming from the building. When she was finally allowed inside, all of her belongings were covered with soot and smoke.

“Everything smelled like burnt plastic,” said Stephen, who has lived in the apartment since July 2005. She is being displaced for a month while the building owner makes repairs and replaces windows smashed during the firefight.

Units from Redwood City fire and police departments, and firefighters from Belmont, San Carlos and Menlo Park responded to the blaze.

Investigators are still working to determine the cause of the fire, according to Redwood City fire Chief Gerald Kohlmann. Penas is determined to bounce back.

“I think our store is going to be better than ever when we reopen,” Penas said. “It shows we don’t back down.”

Staff Writer Brian Foley contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

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Written by Beth Winegarner

February 20, 2007 at 10:33 PM

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