Strawberry fire victim files suit

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Strawberry fire victim files suit By Karen White / Senior Times Writer April 10, 2002 SANTA MARIA — A civil suit has been filed by one victim of the June 8 multi-million dollar strawberry complex fire against another. The “Casiano Incident” last year caused an estimated $14 million damage at the complex at the southwest corner of Stowell and Blosser roads. Lost or damaged by the fire was 119,775 square feet of building. Monetary and punitive damages are being sought. The accidental fire started, according to a report from the Santa Maria Fire Department, when a stack of wax-coated strawberry boxes being assembled by the Casiano Berry Supply company was placed 6 to 12 inches below a high-pressure sodium light bulb, which ignited the boxes. A fire report indicated that a protective shroud had been knocked off the light bulb approximately three days prior to the fire. The fire destroyed Casiano facilities, then spread into facilities used by Cal-Giant, Select Personnel, Frozsun Foods and Sunrise Growers. The result was extensive fire, smoke and water damage throughout a portion of the complex. Cal-Giant Inc. filed the suit in Santa Maria Superior Court April 2, charging Weyerhaeuser box company and its hired representative, Casiano Berry Supplies, along with Does 1-100, with negligence, nuisance, trespass and wrongful entry and invasion of the right of private occupancy because of the fire. Weyerhaeuser leased the space from Cal-Giant where Casiano made boxes. Cal-Giant charges that Casiano had a non-delegated duty to ensure that it was operating in a fire-safe manner, that the negligent storage of combustible materials increased the fire hazard to the adjacent buildings and tenants, contaminants left resulted in wrongful entry on the subject property (by the fire) and the fire deprived the strawberry company of “enjoying its property.” The company charged the defendants were negligent and reckless, consciously disregarded the existence of the conditions that led to the fire, and failed to warn of the dangers presented by these conditions. Cal-Giant set damages of at least $800,000, plus damages which are ongoing and not calculated yet, but to be proven at trial. The case has been assigned to Santa Maria Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville, with a first hearing set for Aug. 5. He will be asked by Cal-Giant for damages, the cost of the suit and for damages caused as a result of the fire. The fire began about 10:30 p.m. on a Friday and continued through Sunday afternoon. A group of more than 120 firefighters representing 12 fire agencies with 31 pieces of equipment worked 48 hours to quell the fire. It is considered the biggest fire in Santa Maria’s history, The effort ended with 70 percent of the property saved. This represented 280,000 square feet of building and contents, with an estimated savings of $46 million. Suppression cost was estimated at $200,000. Firefighters used 5 million gallons of water to fight the fire. No injuries were reported. * Senior staff writer Karen White can be reached at (805) 739-2217 or by e-mail att April 10, 2002 :nav Source:

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