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Bakersfield Fire Department saves the Buena Vista Museum in overnight fire

"Tears when I saw it.”
Maria's Home Furnishings Fire, July 8, 2021
Maria's Home Furnishings Fire, July 8, 2021
Executive Director of the Buena Vista Museum Koral Hancharick
Maria's Home Furnishings Fire, July 8, 2021
Bakersfield Fire Department Deputy Chief Kevin Albertson
Maria's Home Furnishings Fire, July 8, 2021
Posted at 5:17 PM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 20:24:32-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Several businesses downtown are recovering after a fire broke out in the area.

Back on December 12th of last year, two different fires broke out near Chester Avenue and 20th Street. The first fire started at Pallets for Days and quickly spread to Tina Marie's Cafe. Both businesses were destroyed.

Just 15 minutes after fire crews left another fire broke out nearby. That's when the Buena Vista Museum burned and part of the building flooded while fire crews worked to stop the flames. Despite the damage, the building was saved and it reopened in May.

Tina Marie's Cafe, which burned twice, eventually reopened at a different location.

It’s been less than a year since those fires burned down four buildings in Downtown Bakersfield. And now one of them, the Buena Vista Museum, was at risk of burning again. Museum officials say they can’t believe this was happening again.

Maria's Home Furnishings Fire, July 8, 2021
Fire crews battled a fire that sparked near the Buena Vista Museum in Downtown Bakersfield near Chester Avenue.

This time, the fire started at a business called Maria's Furniture, right next door to the Buena Vista Museum. The executive director of the Buena Vista Museum, Koral Hancharick, told 23ABC a strong brick wall between the buildings and the Bakersfield Fire Department that helped save the museum from any major damage.

“Oh my gosh, it's just unbelievable that this can happen again at this level," said Hancharick. "To see the flames shooting up like that again just was bringing everything back from December when the other four buildings burned.”

Executive Director of the Buena Vista Museum Koral Hancharick
Executive Director of the Buena Vista Museum Koral Hancharick

Hancharick says just before 11 p.m. Thursday night she found out a fire was burning near the museum.

“I got a phone call saying the building was on fire and I raced down here and just very gut-wrenching again. Tears when I saw it.”

Hancharick says she was devastated because it was only about 6 months ago in December 2020 when a previous fire destroyed all four buildings within that stretch of the shopping center. Now only two months after they reopened another fire has threatened the museum and businesses.

Maria's Home Furnishings Fire, July 8, 2021
Fire crews battled a fire that sparked near the Buena Vista Museum in Downtown Bakersfield near Chester Avenue.

“It’s something I know I just have to be strong and go through. However, it is gut-wrenching and it does tug at my heart.”
The good news is the Bakersfield Fire Department made it a priority to protect the Buena Vista Museum.

“One of the big concerns for the strategy of that fire was protecting the museum next door. So they deployed resources into that to make sure the fire did not extend into the museum and focused their tactics to make sure it stopped the progression to the north,” explained Bakersfield Fire Department Deputy Chief Kevin Albertson.

Bakersfield Fire Department Deputy Chief Kevin Albertson
Bakersfield Fire Department Deputy Chief Kevin Albertson

And they were able to save it. Hancharick says they do have water in their basement but nothing burned inside the museum. There’s just a lot of smoke.

“We also have a lot of smoke damage, not really damage but just smell inside the museum. So we will be closed through the weekend here.”

The Bakersfield Police Department says as far as what caused the fire the investigation is still ongoing but they do have their arson team investigating as they think foul play may have been involved.

“Upon arrival, we received reports of people running out of that structure as we got there and prior to us getting there,” said Chief Albertson.

And as Hancharick mentioned the Buena Vista Museum will be closed at least until next Wednesday. For updates on when they will reopen you can head to their Facebook page.

Chief Alberston says if anyone in the area saw anything last night that can help them determine the cause of the fire, you are encouraged to call the Bakersfield Fire Department.