Store fire caught before catastrophe

Smoke- and fire-damaged Seaside Home, an upscale home design store and atelier at 7509 Girard Ave., has one of its neighbors to thank for their business sustaining $200,000-plus in damages to structure and contents rather than being a total loss.

The Seaside Home fire was reported around 3:30 a.m. on Friday, June 20, said a San Diego Fire-Rescue Department dispatcher. Flames burned the store’s roof and part of its attic, the dispatcher said, adding that it took firefighters about 40 minutes to knock down the blaze.

Chance, and a good sense of smell, led computer technician Shaun Salehyan, employed with PC Help Desk at 1010 Pearl St., Suite 10, which shares the same building as Seaside, to first detect the fire at the La Jolla furniture store and then report it.

“I happened to be attending a birthday party for a friend at The Living Room (coffee lounge at 1010 Prospect St.),” said Salehyan, who commutes to work from Tierrasanta, “and on the way home about 2:30 a.m. I decided to stop in at the office to check to see if our neon light had been turned off, grab a book and see if there were any computers that needed to be taken care of. I smelled smoke and I looked around the office, but didn’t see anything.”

Salehyan went outside the building to check for smoke, but it was so foggy he still couldn’t detect anything. Undaunted, he decided to go up on the roof of the building accessed by a trap door inside his boss’s office. “I said to myself, ‘Check one more time,’ ” he said. “When I got to the top I saw that one corner section of the building was just blazing, so I rushed down and called the fire department.”

Due to the weather conditions at the time and the fact that it was 3:30 a.m. by that time, responding firefighters told Salehyan he almost certainly saved the building - and the day - through his tenacious curiosity and fortuitous timing. “A fireman told me if I hadn’t smelled it and realized it was a fire,” said Salehyan, “that with the fog, probably no one would have noticed it until 5 or 6 a.m., and by that time the building would have been gone.”

The computer technician added that a power line near the building was also in danger of igniting an electrical fire which could have further spread the blaze.

“It was just a coincidence that I happened to be there,” noted Salehyan. “I’m usually not in La Jolla at that time.”

Salehyan added the latest wildfire outbreak last October, in which his Tierrasanta residence was threatened, has taught him that “you might as well be safe, than sorry.”

Damage to La Jolla’s two-story Seaside Home business sustained an estimated $100,000 to its structure. There were no injuries as the business was unoccupied in the wee hours of the morning.

Sheryll Jackman, owner of Seaside Home Corporation, which includes two other stores in the county, said her La Jolla store reopened later the same day of the blaze. “We had to replace the door that the firemen broke into,” Jackman said, “but there were so many people who wanted to come in, we decided to reopen.”

Jackman said her business was fully insured, but added the smoke and water damage was extensive. “We lost $150,000 of product,” she said, “and we have to fix the building.”

Concerning the cause of the blaze, Jackman passed along what she was told by fire investigators. “The building was being reroofed and it was mops covered with tar that were left that had gotten hot during the day that ignited spontaneously and the ocean breezes spread it,” she said she was told.