A fire that officials deemed "suspicious" in nature engulfed a vacant building in La Mesa Friday evening, causing heavy smoke and a second-alarm response from crews.
Officials said the blaze began around 5:50 p.m. at a building located in a strip mall in the 4300-block of Palm Avenue. Crews could see smoke from miles away.
The structure fire burned near homes that are situated on a grassy hill nearby. However, Heartland Fire-Rescue Battalion Chief Ted Kakuris said the apartments were a safe distance away.
Since the building had been vacant, with no electricity or gas – and was set to be demolished Monday -- Kakuris said the fire raises concerns.
“Anytime we have a building that goes up in flames and there's no logical reason because the power is shut down and it's being torn down it's going to lead us to a suspicious nature,” he said.
The fire caused a portion of the roof of the building to collapse as firefighters worked to tackle the flames. By 6:55 p.m., officials said they had contained the fire.
The incident was frightening for nearby residents, including Holly Kennedy, who called police when she saw the flames and smoke erupt.
“It got to the point where there was big black smoke and a red funnel just shooting into the sky,” said Kennedy. “It was pretty scary.”
No one was injured.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Crews stayed on scene for hours mopping up hot spots and interviewing witnesses, trying to piece together what, or who, may have started the fire.