Holidays slow fire victims’ return 

Several downtown Burlingame business owners received a lump of coal in their stockings from the city after they were told they could not rebuild their fire-ravaged offices during the holidays.

A fire at 1227-1241 Burlingame Ave. and 240-250 Park Road on Sept. 19 caused $1.3 million in structural damages and internal property loss to 10 businesses on the second floor. It also displaced two residents when a portion of the second story roof collapsed.

The building owner is ready to restore the structure but a moratorium was placed on rebuilding the roof and other reconstruction from Nov. 3 to Jan. 5, Community Development Director Bill Meeker said.

Though the businesses are on private property, the construction requires scaffolding work to be done on city-owned right-of-ways and sidewalks, Meeker said. Public Works does not issue these permits during the holiday season as standard procedure, he said.

The fire-damaged building is in the middle of the city’s busiest shopping street; construction there could have jammed an already crowded area for residents and other shops, according to Meeker. Meanwhile, the construction freeze has caused the businesses damaged in the fire to miss out on the busiest shopping time of the year.

"I can understand the city not wanting to have construction going on during the holidays, but it’s darned inconvenient for allof us," said Pam Vogt, owner of Mr. Z’s Stamps, which also sells coins and collectibles.

Vogt was fortunate enough to retain much of her inventory, store it and move in to the Camino Co. in Burlingame to take orders after the fire. Other business owners’ offices and equipment were completely destroyed.

Some owners have tried looking for new locations while routing calls and orders to answering services. Others have set up P.O. boxes and begun working at home while they wait for their offices to be rebuilt.

The owners, who huddled together and watched as their offices went up in smoke in September, have become excellent friends, Vogt said. For instance, Papyrus — one of the downstairs merchants in the building that remained intact — received Mr. Z’s Stamps’ deliveries while its owners looked for another location, she said.

The fire could have been prevented had the building been equipped with a full sprinkler system, said Fire Marshal Rocque Yballa. The building owner now plans to install a sprinkler system as he fixes the roof, Yballa said.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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