Cross Creek fire destroys shops


Four businesses are destroyed; several others suffer lesser damage. The cause of the fire is unknown.

By Hans Laetz / Special to The Malibu Times

At least four Malibu businesses were destroyed Sunday by a fire that caused flaming aerosol cans to shoot out of a Cross Creek Plaza shop with explosive velocity. Nearly a third of the northwestern part of the shopping center was destroyed, but a pair of firewalls prevented an even larger conflagration.

Bay Cities Beauty Supply, the Casa Escobar restaurant, the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream franchise and the Fast Frame shop were destroyed in the fast-moving blaze, and three other businesses suffered lesser damage.

Cross Creek Plaza owner Steve Soboroff was already on the phone planning reconstruction as smoldering remains were being doused.

“No one was hurt, we’ve all got insurance and, as far as I am concerned, the biggest loss is the irreplaceable things at the frame shop,” he said.

There were no injuries to employees, customers or any of the more than 100 Los Angeles County firefighters who extinguished the fire. Arson teams are assessing the wreckage and have yet to place a complete dollar value on the lost buildings and contents, or a cause for the fire. The preliminary damage estimate was in excess of $2 million.

The blaze broke out at 11:53 a.m. in the center portion of the center’s northern strip of shops. Witnesses said beauty store employees ran into Casa Escobar asking for a fire extinguisher and alerted brunch customers to exit quickly.

Although some bystanders say the response was not immediate, a Fire Department spokesman reviewed Los Angeles County radio logs and said a passing battalion chief arrived at 11:55 a.m., the first fire truck arrived at 11:57 a.m., and the entire second-alarm complement of 12 engines was on scene at 12 p.m. precisely.

Los Angeles County Fire Captain Bob Goldman said the first battalion chief found flames and aerosol cans shooting out of the beauty store’s broken front windows.

“They immediately pulled a second alarm, and called for additional resources,” said Goldman, who arrived moments later from Station 70 at Carbon Canyon.

Goldman said it only took moments for flames to consume businesses in the middle third of the strip. Those businesses -Casa Escobar, the beauty supply store and the Fast Frame store-were all gutted and that section of building will have to be demolished, Goldman said.

To the west, a firewall stopped most of the flames from entering the Wallace New Malibu Theaters, which suffered minor damage. (The theater is temporarily closed.) But Ben and Jerry’s was largely destroyed as firefighters fought a small extension of fire into the ceiling above that family-operated franchise.

An eastern firewall prevented fire damage to Malibu Optics and the Banana Republic for Women outlet. Shops and restaurants in the eastern wing and freestanding stores in the parking lot were unaffected and remained open for business.

Three cars parked in front of the beauty store burst into flames from the heat of the fire, and another three suffered melted front bumpers.

Stubborn fires inside the false roof, and against the firewalls, prevented firefighters from declaring the fire “knocked down” until 1:27 p.m., some 94 minutes after it broke out.

Goldman said the firefighters’ greatest concern was the tile porch in front of the structure, which burned and threatened to collapse onto the building’s front doors below.