STOCKTON, Calif. (KTXL) — Authorities are still trying to figure out how an early morning fire Friday started in Stockton’s Miracle Mile Shopping District involving the historic Empire Theatre.
“When I saw it coming down, I had sort of an emotional experience,” said resident Mike Lopez.
Lopez says he has a lot of vivid memories attached to the theater.
“Watched a lot of movies there,” Lopez said.
But he acknowledges the vacant building was not in the best shape.
“I am not surprised. It’s old,” Lopez told FOX40.
Stockton fire says the blaze broke out around 5 a.m. Crews initially went inside to put out the fire, but they soon learned the roof was about to collapse and got out.
The roof later collapsed and the west wall was demolished by personnel.
“The layout of the building is very old. It’s interconnected to seven to 10 different independent businesses,” said Fire Chief Richard Edwards. “That made the firefight really challenging for the firefighters inside.”
But the damage was not limited to the theater.
“We got some water damage,” said Al Greco.
Greco has owned a comic store for the past 40 years. The water damage due to the nearby fire was extensive and forced him to close and clean up.
“People would like to have their books and stuff. Now, they have to wait until we are able to open the store again,” Greco said.
Greco says he hopes to reopen his shop sometime next week.
Fire officials are still trying to determine how the Friday fire started. This is not, however, the first time the old Empire Theatre has caught fire.
In June 2017, nine businesses were forced out of the building after city officials claimed the property was a fire danger.
In the summer of 2018, the former entertainment venue caught fire three times.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.