This strip mall on Riverside Drive suffered major damage after an arson-caused fire Sunday, July 2. Photos by Sam Williams

Arson fire ravages Riverside Drive complex

A commercial complex on Riverside Drive suffered major damage due to a July 2 arson fire that gutted a restaurant and spread through the attic of the building.

According to a statement from the Susanville Police Department, about 3 a.m. Sunday, July 2, officers and firefighters responded to a report of a structure fire on Riverside Drive.

The fire consumed four suites that housed the Courthouse Café, two attorneys’ offices and the Sierra Central Credit Union. The fire department was able to extinguish the blaze, but there was major fire damage to the entire complex.

About 8 a.m. the next morning, Monday, July 3, the owners of JH Heating discovered their business had been burglarized over the weekend. SPD officers and deputies from Lassen County Sheriff ’s Office conducted a follow-up investigation of both the fire and burglary, which led to the arrest of Samuel Craig Lima, 26, of Susanville.

According to the booking documents, Lima was arrested on an outstanding felony warrant and booked into the Lassen County Jail on a felony charge of attempted burglary and two felony arson charges. He is currently being held in lieu of $150,000 bail.

Fire damage is obvious behind the Courthouse Café as the blaze burned through the roof and spread though the attic, forcing the closure of four businesses in the strip mall.

Aftermath

Debris from the fire, including furniture and insulation, remain behind the Riverside Drive complex. Photo by Sam Williams

Martha Duarte, the owner of the Courthouse Café, called July 2 “a heartbreaking day,” on a social media site. “Somebody with a hateful heart burned down our restaurant early this morning, and our world is spinning,” Duarte wrote. “But we will make it past this, and we will open again when time and God allows and be better than ever.”

Attorney Mark Nareau said his office suffered fire, smoke and water damage. He said many of his files suffered smoke and water damage, but all the information should be recoverable. He said his practice continues and he’s still meeting with clients. He said he plans to relocate his office in the future.

According to its website, Sierra Central Credit Union has secured a new location at 3005 Riverside Drive (formerly Payless Shoes). Initially the company provided a trailer outside the fire site to service its customers.

As of Thursday, July 6, the credit union said it was able to process cash and check transactions at the new site, but it is not able to open new accounts or process loan applications yet. The website reports, “Due to a structure fire, our Sierra Central Susanville branch … experienced significant damage to the strip mall where it is located. Fire engulfed the structure in the early morning hours of July 2, and will be closed until further notice.”

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