SAN DIEGO -- Federal investigators believe the second fire at a local off-roading warehouse in less than six months was an arson, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms announced Friday.
In a release explaining the decision, ATF said: "After examining all the evidence, it was determined the cause of the fire to be incendiary, meaning it was intentionally set, and is considered an act of arson."
A criminal investigation will now begin, with ATF agents working together with San Diego arson teams to bring "those responsible for this crime to justice," officials said.
Federal agents were called to San Diego in late March after Off Road Warehouse in Kearny Mesa went up in flames for the second time in less than a year. ATF agents worked with local arson investigators for about a week, sifting through the wreckage of the gutted warehouse.
A fire official said the structure and its contents were a total loss and caused an estimated $3.5 million in damages.
Twelve vehicles burned to the ground inside the building and 16 employees are being shifted to other locations while the arson investigation continues.
Off Road Warehouse owner Randy Weisser says he hopes to reopen in another Kearny Mesa location in about three months.
In the meantime, neighboring shops have had to close their doors to business. "Oh yeah, we are basically out of business right now because we can’t access our bay doors," said Ted Nguyen, who works at Advanced Automotive nearby. "They won’t allow us any access to the driveway where we would pull our cars in.”