Firefighters believe a fallen power line and exploding transformer may have sparked the blaze
By Gary Walker
A fallen power line that led to an exploding transformer is the preliminary suspected cause of an early Monday morning fire that destroyed the 99 Cents Only Store on Washington Boulevard. More than 70 firefighters battled the two-alarm blaze.
Flames engulfed the entire structure and collapsed the roof and walls, reducing the discount outlet to smoldering rubble as firefighters battled small flare-ups throughout the day with aerial water cannons and hoses at ground level.
Culver City firefighters received a call at approximately 1:45 a.m. about sparks from a power pole with fire extending to the rear of the store, Culver City Fire Capt. Daniel Dobbs said.
“A transformer exploded shortly after the first units arrived and they quickly extinguished the fire and then made entry into the building and onto the roof,” he said.
Dobbs said firefighters initially on the roof and inside the structure experienced “very intense heat” from the fire and withdrew for safety reasons. Several other fire engines from Los Angeles city soon joined Culver City in as they tried to extinguish the blaze. No fire personnel were injured, and the fire was contained to the building.
“I’ve been on the job for 13 years and this is the largest fire that I’ve seen in Culver City. We have guys that have been here 25 years and they say it the largest that they’ve ever seen,” Dobbs said.
Arson investigators from Culver City and Los Angeles were on scene as firefighters continued working to contain the fire, and they were later joined by forensic technicians from Culver City.
Dobbs said investigators are trying to locate video footage that might help with the investigation into the fire.
Later in the morning, a 99 Cents Only Store employee walked up and down Washington Boulevard passing out gift cards and a flyer that invited customers to a sister store on Lincoln Boulevard.
A Marina del Rey man who attends 12-step meetings across the street from there store gazed at the white and black smoke emanating from the structure.
Photos by Maria Martin