A fire in a storage yard where the homeless are known to congregate burned down a Riverside thrift store on Sunday, November 13, which helps the homeless and others get lucky.
A historic building that manufactured citrus machines and military vehicles during World War II also caught fire.
One person suffered what the Riverside Fire Department described as moderate burns. The woman was taken to a burn care center.
Sheree Hatfield, 66, who manages the Set Free Thrift Store at 3021 14th St., said 30 to 40 boxes of clothes that were going to be sold were lost in the fire. Some of the building’s windows were blown out, she said. The store was closed on Monday while arson investigators from the Riverside Fire Department investigated the cause of the fire.
The fire appears to have started in a yard where the store stores donations that cannot be sold and are tagged for landfill, Hatfield said. Although the yard is fenced and the gate is locked, homeless people often climb the fence to access these donations.
“It’s a daily thing. It’s a non-stop thing,” Hatfield said.
She believes the woman who was burned was homeless and entered the yard.
“She was there to get high or warm up,” Hatfield said.
The irony, Hatfield continued, is that she donates clothes and food to the homeless every day, so there was no need for the woman to enter the yard, if she intended to rummage through donations.
The store is a branch of Set Free Ministries, which Hatfield says was founded in the 1970s “to help people no one wants to help. Just to give people a fresh start in life.
The store raises funds for ministry homes where recovering drug addicts and alcoholics or the homeless may live. The ministry is also buying bicycles for people and planning a gift of 100 turkeys. Hatfield said she hopes the public can help the store recover from the fire by donating menswear and money.
Hatfield, who said she was a drug addict 18 years ago, said she was one of the beneficiaries of the ministry. She said she was living on Supplemental Security Income.
“I don’t get paid for this. I’m doing this for God,” Hatfield said.
The blaze was reported at 10:56 p.m. Eight fire engines and 44 firefighters were dispatched to battle the flames, which climbed palm trees and also moved to the roof and attic of Solar Max, a company who sells solar panels. Solar Max remained open Monday, facilities manager Darvin Traylor said.
The fire department estimated the loss on the Solar Max building at $26 million to $200,000.
The building is considered a historic structure in Riverside. According to the Riverside Public Library website, the long rectangular building housed the Food Machinery Corporation. In 1940 the company was involved in the design of a light amphibious tracked vehicle and manufactured military versions of the vehicle which included a gun turret.
The fire department estimated the thrift store’s loss at $5,000.