Calexico Chronicle / IV Weekly

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Brooks Building May Come Down, Fire Probe Lingers

March 8, 2019

     Nearly a month after a fire at the Brooks Jewelry building in downtown El Centro an investigation has yet to determine the cause of the blaze that destroyed the treasured icon, city officials said.

         

     Meanwhile, it appears the building’s owner and former occupant, Larry Bratton, will have the structure at 598 W. Main St. taken down, though that could not be immediately confirmed.

 

     City Council Member Jason Jackson explained at the city council meeting March 4 he had spoken with Bratton on Feb. 28 and Bratton told him he got an estimate of $2 million to restore the structure. Because of the steep cost of rehabilitation, Bratton noted he is almost certain to have the remains demolished.

 

     Lonnie Main, manager of the neighboring properties at 588 and 584 W. Main and owner of the Gold & Diamond Exchange next door to Brooks, said Bratton told him demolition would require three to four days and hopefully be completed by March 11.

 

     “They had engineers and HAZMAT (hazardous materials) experts inspecting, the way I hear it,” he said. “Once demolition is done we (neighboring merchants) can go back in and start remodeling the Paul McManus Building, (adjacent properties).”

 

     Concerning the fire cause, El Centro police Cmdr. Aaron Reel said in a March 1 telephone interview, “Every indication is that it was a full-blown arson. We’re trying to find the culprit but the fire department are the resident experts in arson.”

 

     Jackson added he, similar merchants in the area, had heard there was a security camera video that recorded an individual in a dark hooded sweatshirt  leaving the scene on a BMX type of bicycle, but investigation so far has not confirmed the allegation, he stressed.

           

     Flames were discovered erupting from the second story of the Brooks building about 3:30 a.m. on Feb. 11 and the El Centro police and fire departments were summoned.

 

     It was cool, overcast weather that day and nothing within the ground floor tenants’ premises, El Dorado Printing & Embroidery Services, could explain how such a significant blaze could occur, officials said. It took firefighters until mid-afternoon to completely extinguish the fire and they indicated the cause was suspicious.

 

     Meanwhile, the pain continues for merchants in the adjoining building displaced by the fire.

 

     Carolyn Vigil, owner of the Chopping Block hair salon, has been renting space from a neighboring merchant, Integrity Barber Shop, since the fire occurred.

 

     “I don’t have a clue as to what’s happening there (Brooks Building) but I just got word I’m being released from my lease,” she said.

 

     She confirmed traffic is still closed off on Main Street between Fifth and Sixth Street and Sixth between Broadway and Main Street.

         

     Main relocated his Gold & Dimond Exchange to another neighboring shop, Simply at Home at 569 W. Main., but said he plans to return to his location once allowed to.

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