Man arrested in business fire
Grass Valley blaze severely damages building, no injuries reported
A Grass Valley man was arrested Tuesday for allegedly starting a fire that badly damaged a Grass Valley podiatry clinic, authorities say.
Christopher Rex, 35, was arrested around 3 p.m. on arson and burglary charges, according to a press release issued by the Grass Valley Police Department. Police detectives had worked with Grass Valley Fire Department investigators throughout Tuesday to identify Rex as a suspect.
Just before 6 a.m., firefighters had responded to a report of a building fire at 123 Margaret Lane, the listed location of Foothill Podiatry Clinic, a local foot specialist clinic. Flames had already engulfed the exterior of the building when personnel arrived, and the interior was partially on fire as well, according to Mark Buttron, chief of the Grass Valley Fire Department.
The fire was extinguished by 6:20 a.m., and no injuries were reported, as the building was not occupied at the time of the fire, Buttron said.
It is believed that Rex broke into the podiatry clinic early Tuesday, starting the fire in the course of burglarizing the building. It is not yet known whether the fire was started intentionally, according to Grass Valley Police Capt. Steve Johnson. The suspect is also believed to have broken into another business on Hughes Road that same morning, Johnson added. Police believe that mainly cash and miscellaneous office equipment were taken during the course of both burglaries.
The two-story clinic sustained a considerable amount of damage, with the bottom half of the building suffering significantly more damage than the second story, Buttron and Johnson said. The clinic has been “red tagged” by Nevada County authorities until further notice, meaning that no one can inhabit or conduct business in the building until it has been subjected to a thorough structural inspection, Johnson added.
The full extent of the damage, as well as a monetary estimate of the cost to the building owners, is not yet known.
While the podiatry clinic is connected to several adjacent businesses on the same lot, Johnson said the clinic was the only building damaged by the fire. Buttron credited the quick and effective response by firefighters as putting an end to the fire before it had an opportunity to spread to the surrounding buildings.
Units with the Grass Valley Fire Department, Nevada County Consolidated Fire Department, and Cal Fire all responded to the scene and assisted in extinguishing the blaze, Buttron said.
On Tuesday morning, at 5:57 am, GVPD Officers and the Grass Valley Fire Department responded to reports of a commercial structure fire at 123 Margaret Lane.
The first arriving Grass Valley fire units found a 2-story commercial structure with fire involvement external and internal on both floors of the building. Crews worked swiftly to extinguish the fire, and two additional buildings on the property were saved. Grass Valley Firefighters were assisted at the fire by NCCFD, Cal Fire and Ophir Hill with Higgins and Penn Valley providing cover fire engines for empty stations.
Grass Valley Police Detectives worked with the Grass Valley Fire Marshall to determine the cause of the fire. They determined that the fire was most likely an act of arson. Throughout the day GVPD Detectives uncovered additional leads and evidence that helped them identify a suspect.
At 2:58 pm, they located and arrested 35-year-old Grass Valley resident Christopher Rex for the following charges:
• 2 counts of attempted commercial burglary – attempted break-ins on Margaret Lane
• 2 counts of burglary – break-in at one location on Margaret Lane and one location on Hughes Road
• 1 count of burglary and 1 count of arson – break-in at the location of the fire on Margaret Lane
All these burglaries and attempted burglaries occurred in the early morning hours leading up to the fire.
Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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