Feds sift through gutted off-roading warehouse after 2nd fire this year

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SAN DIEGO — The work was just beginning Saturday for about 25 federal agents investigating an off-roading warehouse in Kearny Mesa that caught fire twice in less than six months.

The team, made up of chemists and engineers, is working for the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to determine how and where a fire started.

Agents descended on the gutted Off Road Warehouse in Kearny Mesa first thing in the morning, kicking off what they expect will be a roughly week-long investigation. The feds haven’t confirmed whether they believe the fire is suspicious, but say forensic experts are parsing through everything from electrical wiring to the business’ financial documents.

“We’re going to have rakes and shovels sifting through every piece of debris,” James Shadoan, a member of the San Diego Metro Arson Strike Team, told FOX 5. “We have a canine on-scene, we have building engineers, forensic auditors — we have a whole host of different people here.”

The large shop burned quickly and caused $3.5 million in damages. It was the second costly blaze at the shop in five months.

Federal and local investigators say they have a lot of work ahead in their joint investigation and nothing will be left unturned.

“I think in any sort of fire scene investigation, you look at the totality of everything. From the business, to how long it’s been in business, the type of business it is, everything,” said ATF Special Agent Ernesto Diaz. “All of that is just normal, course of duty stuff that we do in these types of investigations.”

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,” Ted Nguyen, who works at Advanced Automotive nearby, said on Friday. “They won’t allow us any access to the driveway where we would pull our cars in.”

FOX 5’s Jeff Mcadam contributed to this report.

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