ATF Aiding Investigation Into Cause of Chula Vista Shoe Store Fire

An ATF National Response Team was requested by the Chula Vista Fire Department to assist local arson investigators to help determine the cause of Monday's fire

NBC 7 San Diego/Scott Baird

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) National Response Team has been deployed to assist the Chula Vista Fire Department in the investigation into the shoe store fire that injured four firefighters Monday.

The fire broke out at around 5:40 p.m., inside the Action Footwear, at 655 H Street, according to the Chula Vista Fire Department.

As the first crews arrived they only saw light smoke showing from the building, according to Chula Vista Fire Capt. Linda D’Orsi, who said that four employees were inside when the fire sparked but were able to leave without being harmed.

The fire was reported to have started on the second floor and was driven by the high winds that blew through San Diego on Monday. The rapidly spreading fire prompted the call for a second alarm and then, when the roof collapsed, a third alarm.

According to a spokesperson for ATF, a single ATF Certified Fire Investigator responded to the scene to assist Chula Vista Fire Investigators with the origin and cause investigation, however, based on the size of the building, the amount of fire damage, and the firefighter injuries, Chula Vista Fire Department requested the assistance of ATF’s NRT.

A member of the family that owns the shoe store said they've had it since the 1990s. He believes an electrical issue may have sparked the blaze, but investigators have yet to make an official determination.

“ATF is committed to working alongside Chula Vista Fire Department to determine the origin and cause of this fire that injured firefighters,” said Special Agent in Charge of ATF Los Angeles Field Division Monique Villegas. “ATF will provide whatever resources are necessary to thoroughly investigate and provide answers.”

The NRT works in conjunction with other investigators to reconstruct the scene, identify the seat of the blast or origin of the fire and determine the cause of an incident.

There have been two other recent National Response Team activations to San Diego county in recent years, including the USS Bonhomme Richard Fire in July 2020 as well as the fire at the Kearny Mesa Off Road Warehouse in March 2019.

Of the firefighteres that were injured, one firefighter, remains hospitalized as he suffered second-degree burns. Two others had minor burns and another sustained an ankle injury and was taken to Sharp Chula Vista.

NBC 7's Omari Fleming has the latest from the scene.

Check back for the latest updates on this developing story.

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