Family's East Hollywood warehouse burnt down, suspect fire started in homeless camp

It was such a mess. From the ceiling to the floor the warehouse for Store Supply was destroyed by an intense middle-of-the-night fire. The family thinks it started in a homeless encampment adjacent to the store.

Andres Valdez owns the warehouse. He and his family said they’ve had an ongoing conflict with a homeless man whose encampment is adjacent to the store.

His daughter Angela Sanchez, who sometimes works in the store said, "We do have a witness that says that they seen him running as soon as the fire started. So he took off and he left all his stuff behind."

Over 40 firefighters were called to the store at the corner of New Hampshire and Melrose avenues at 1:25 a.m. Monday morning. It took them 25 minutes to knock down the fire, which they said started outside where the encampment is located and worked its way into the building.

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Twenty-seven years ago, Valdez came to Los Angeles from Mexico and started the East Hollywood business. He’s devastated. The store area wasn’t damaged much, but the warehouse and all of the goods in there are gone. A big loss for a guy with not much insurance. A 58-year-old now asking "What’s going to happen to me?"

The Los Angeles Fire Department said although the cause of the blaze is under investigation, they believe it started outside the building and raced into it. Santiago Varela, who owns The Melrose House bar nearby took video that supports that account.

Sanchez and her dad said that for a year now they have called the city on multiple occasions for help to deal with the homeless man’s encampment.

"They come and remove him, 20 minutes [later] he's right back," Sanchez said. 

Valdez said he asked the man to leave a month ago. The man's response, Valdez said: "He said, 'You're crazy. I have nowhere to go. It's not my fault.' I said, ‘You need to leave. You don’t deserve to be here. You cover the whole street, [the] whole sidewalk.’"

Now, the whole sidewalk is covered in rubble. Shopping carts were incinerated, as was a neighbor’s SUV that was parked at the curb. Sanchez said the whole thing "breaks my heart."

It breaks her dad’s heart too.

"Everything that I did, you know, it went down," Valdez said. "All that I work for is right there. And, now, what’s gonna happen?"

The family is raising money to recoup their losses, which can be found here.