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Owners of SLO store destroyed by fire suing city, fire department for damages

Posted at 3:02 PM, Dec 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-28 22:24:36-05

The owners of an iconic San Luis Obispo retail shop destroyed by fire three years ago are now suing the City of San Luis Obispo and its fire department for millions in damages.

The lawsuit filed this week in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court on behalf of the Sub Corporation’s owners claims the city has no oversight of the fire department and says the fire department’s policy to not go inside a burning building to fight the fire contributed to the destruction.

The Dec. 26, 2015 fire began in a display window area of the smoke room at The Sub, located at 295 Higuera St., according to the fire marshal, before spreading to nearby businesses.

The lawsuit claims the city’s fire department engaged “in conduct that passes beyond the proper bounds of government power and resulted in unnecessary invasions and damaging of property rights.”

It goes on to say that “what started out as a small, easily containable fire” ultimately destroyed six buildings.

It took firefighters 12 hours and three-million gallons of water to extinguish the flames.

The fire marshal ultimately listed the cause of the fire as undetermined. In his investigation report, he says the fire burned for 11 hours, damaging potential evidence in the process.

The lawsuit claims that if the fire was left to burn and firefighters never arrived, the flames would have never spread to nearby Square Deal Recordings & Supplies, Inc.

According to the complaint, Square Deal now has only 13,000 listings on Amazon due to the fire destroying inventory and important documents. That number was reportedly 161,000 before the fire.

The lawsuit also claims firefighters poured accelerant onto the fire to make the fire look “more advanced.”

As a result of the fire and what the lawsuit says are the city’s policy failures, the owners say damages are in excess of $5 million.

When reached by phone Friday, Riverside-based attorney David F. Hubbard, who filed the complaint, said they are “hoping that through the litigation we can get better access to information about how the fire department trains its folks and what its actual policies are.”

San Luis Obispo Assistant City Attorney Jon Ansolabehere told KSBY, “The City has not been served yet and we will want to carefully review the complaint in order to respond to any particular allegations. However, the City maintains that the City’s Fire Department and its firefighters acted professionally in responding to The Sub fire which was one of the largest and most aggressive fires the City has ever dealt with. The suggestion that the City’s Fire Department has any sort of unwritten ‘burn-down’ policy is patently absurd and without any basis in actual fact. The City will of course diligently defend itself from these sort of meritless claims.”