Salinas firefighters search for bodies in Chinatown building

Salinas firefighters are using cadaver dogs Monday to search for bodies inside an abandoned building that was destroyed by a 3-alarm fire over the weekend.

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The building known as the “Swinging Door” had been abandoned for decades.

Firefighters said they do not think anyone was trapped inside during Saturday’s 5 p.m. fire and killed, but they are using cadaver dogs to ensure there are no human remains inside.

The building is on Soledad Street in Salinas’ Chinatown neighborhood, where a large homeless encampment has existed for years.

It took 60 firefighters four hours to knock out the fire. They successfully prevented it from spreading next door to Victory Mission, a center that provides critical services for the homeless.

The building had no power or gas, and firefighters are investigating what could have caused it to go up in flames. Firefighters suspect the fire was caused by a person who built a warming fire, or by an arsonist.

The city conducts sweeps of Chinatown homeless encampments about twice a year, forcing everyone to leave the area with their belongings.

Fire Captain Brett Loomis said the city’s most recent sweep prevented the building blaze from turning into a multi-casualty event. Clearing out tents ensured that fire trucks had enough room to enter the area.

“Had we had all of those tents and other personal belongings lining the streets we would have been further away, more hose lines, less reach to the building. This fire could have been much more catastrophic from a life perspective and a property perspective,” Loomis said.

Mayor Joe Gunter said there were several people living in tents outside the Swinging Door before the city’s sweep.

“There were people sleeping out there. If those bricks had fallen on someone they would have killed them ,” Gunter said.

WEBVTT WE GET THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTSNOW FROM ACTION NEWS REPORTERFELIX CORTEZ, WHO IS LIVE THERENOW WITH DETAILS.HI, FELIX.FELIX: FIRST, INVESTIGATORS ARESET TO ENTER THE BUILDING ANDTRY TO DETERMINE THE EXACT CAUSEOF THE BLAZE.SECOND, THEY ARE ABOUT TO SENDIN A SEARCH DOG TO POSSIBLY LOOKFOR ANY POTENTIAL HUMAN REMAINSTHAT MAYBE BURIED UNDER ALL OFTHIS RUBBLE.AT THIS POINT FIREFIGHTERS HAVENO IDEA WHAT SPARKED SATURDAY’SBLAZE THAT LIT UP THE SKY INCHINATOWN.THE BUILDING, KNOWN AS THESWINGING DOOR, HAD BEEN EMPTYFOR DECADES. IT’S A COMPLETELOSS TODAY.NOT EVEN 60 FIREFIGHTERS THATRESPONDED DURING THE THREE ALARMBLAZE TO SAY THAT.SEARCH DOGS HAVE BEEN SENT IN TOSEARCH FOR ANY HUMAN REMAINS.>> ESPECIALLY TRAINED IN HUMANREMAIN DETECTION.WE HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO INDICATIONTHAT THERE WAS ANYBODY TRAPPEDIN THE BUILDING AT THE TIME OFTHE FIRE.HOWEVER WE DO THIS OUT OF AN, ABUNDANCE OF CAUTION.WE WANT TO MAKE ABSOLUTELY SURE.FELIX: NOW, BACK HERE LIVE INCHINATOWN, FIREFIGHTERS SAY THEBUILDING HAD NO POWER OR GAS, SOTHEY BELIEVE THE START OF THISFIRE WAS HUMAN IN NATURE, ANDFIREFIGHTERS NOT RULING OUTARSON, OR POSSIBLY WARMING FIRESTARTED BY THE HOMELESS INSIDETHE BUILDING.CRUZ, INVESTIGATORS, AS YOU CANSEE, HAVE NOW ENTERED THEBUILDING AND ARE TRYING TODETERMINE THE EXACT CAUSE OF THEFIRE.IT MAY BE DAYS, POSSIBLY EVENWEEKS, BEFORE THAT IS KNOWN.I WILL BE OUT HERE COVERING THISTHROUGHOUT THE DAY WITH A FULL

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