SAN DIEGO -- Family business owners said they lost their entire inventory to a massive blaze that raged for several hours at an auto recycling plant in Otay Mesa Friday.
The fire started around 5:30 p.m., sending a thick column of smoke into the air that could be seen for miles in each direction. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but fire officials said it likely started from a car at the plant that then spread to two other businesses.
Ricardo Martinez, owner of La Bodega Auto Parts, said his business was the last to be hit but sustained the most damage. The fire destroyed several cars, a two-story storage building and rows of car parts. Martinez estimated the blaze caused millions of dollars worth of damage.
"It's gone. I was in shock," Martinez's son, Ricardo Martinez Jr. told FOX 5. Martinez said the business has been in their family for two decades.
Residents in the Otay Mesa area said the hours-long stream of thick, black smoke leaves them concerned about air quality.
"The general rule of thumb is, if you see or smell smoke, air quality is bad and the public should limit exposure," Jessica Northrup, from the county's Land Use & Environment Department, said in an emailed response to FOX 5.
Northrup said that air quality in the area Saturday was considered moderate.
A GoFundMe fundraiser is accepting donations to the business' "recovery fund."