Downtown fires: Tina Marie’s burns down, Buena Vista Museum remains standing

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BAKERSFIELD (KGET) – The two fires burned four local businesses already struggling to stay open. Obviously this is the last thing these owners want to deal with. Especially with the pandemic impacting business, dozens of employees now out of their jobs during the holiday season. I spoke with the owners of Tina Marie’s and Buena Vista Museum to see how they’ll move forward.

Two fires broke out in downtown bakersfield this morning – just a few hours apart. The first started at 2 this morning. That’s when Tina Marie woke up to a phone call from her security alarm company.

“We turned on the video cameras and they were totally covered in smoke,” Tina Marie said.

Her and her husband rushed downtown to see what was going on.

“Everything was on fire, we actually saw the fire getting off the 99 freeway,” Tina Marie said.

She arrived to see her business engulfed in flames. It had started at the business next door and quickly spread to the roof of Tina Marie’s. Chester Avenue was covered in smoke.

“It’s my baby, it’s my life’s work,” said Tina Marie. “Ive been here almost 18 years. It means a lot it’s not just a restaurant or a business. Its my life.”

Firefighters stayed there all morning putting out the fire. But at noon- just 15 minutes after firefighters left – smoke billowed out of the top of nearby buildings. Two more businesses had caught fire – the flames erupted in minutes and firefighters returned to fight a second fire.

Their priority – to keep the fire from spreading to the Buena Vista Museum next door. Koral Hancharick is the owner of the museum, and says it holds fossils and artifacts that can never be replaced.

“We’re just hoping and praying that it doesnt go through the walls to the museum, it would be a huge loss to this community. We have dinosaur that are 60 to 80 million years old,” Hancharick said.

Bakersfield fire sent crews inside the museum to prevent the fire’s spread. Mike Lencioni from Bakersfield Fire Department says the second fire didn’t start on its own.

“There were subjects possibly seen running from the structure as it was reporter,” said Mike Lencioni, the Battalion Chief of Bakersfield Fire.

Tina Marie and Koral Hancharick say they’ve had issues with homeless encampments in front of their businesses. They both believe that’s how the fires began.

“Its so sad that people are breaking into buildings and setting fires,” said Hancharick. “I know they’re trying to stay warm, but it’s not the way to do it.”

Tina Marie says she plans to rebuild and bounce back from this fire. Here’s their Go Fund Me – the funds will support their employees.

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