UNION CITY, Calif. – Filipino merchants were stunned when fire crews responded to reports of a fire that razed the Alvarado Place Shopping Center at dawn on Wednesday.
Three Filipino-owned retail stores were among those damaged: Magat’sAsian Groceries and Trading, the oldest Filipino grocery store in Union City and the Phil-America Travel and Union City Dental.
Michael Bustamante said he was the first to call 911 at 1:03 a.m. after noticing smoke and fire starting to build up at the shopping center buildings.
Bustamante just started renting space at the Phil-America Travel for his DVD rental and computer shop. He has no insurance. His loss is estimated at $30,000.
"It’s devastating because I have to start
from the bottom again," he said.
Magat’s Asian Groceries and Trading has been operated by Orly Bustos’ family for over 30 years. Bustos said damages incurred could reach up to $100,000 but he at least feels fortunate that he has insurance.
“I feel sad. Sometimes, I’m just speechless. We’ve been here just staring at our businesses for hours. It’s really sad,” he said.
Pat Gacoscos, vice-mayor of Union City lamented that several businesses were damaged.
"I heard that this building, since it’s very old, does not have a sprinkler and firewall system. That’s why the fire spread so fast," she said.
The Union City Fire Department said it is still investigating what caused the fire.