Massive, 5-alarm blaze destroys Perris Salvation Army facility

PERRIS, Calif. — Despite an aggressive and exhaustive attack by firefighters from multiple agencies, a five-alarm commercial structure fire that tore through the Salvation Army Family Store and Donation Center in Perris destroyed the facility’s storage annex, wiping out the non-profit’s entire donation inventory, Tuesday, July 28.

The destructive blaze, which also displaced about 40 men living at the facility’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation and treatment program, caused an estimated $3.5 million in damage, according to authorities.

Thick and choking drift smoke caused delays on the nearby I-215 near Nuevo Rd., and a railroad that runs adjacent to the large complex also had to be halted.

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Cal Fire-Riverside County firefighters were first alerted to the blaze at 24201 Orange Ave. just after 3:30 p.m., after receiving multiple reports of a large and growing fire at the complex, Cal Fire has since reported.

When firefighters began arriving at the scene they reported finding burning debris outside the facility, with extension into one of the facility’s 100,000+ square foot structures.

Officials also discovered several small spot vegetation fires and reported difficult conditions for firefighters at the scene.

Firefighters spent about six hours knocking down a massive, five-alarm blaze that ultimately destroyed a Salvation Army storage annex, wiping out the non-profit’s entire donation inventory yesterday. Justin Howe/The Rugged West photo

Based on the circumstances, the on-scene incident commander immediately requested additional resources; at which time firefighters from the cities of Hemet, Corona, Murrieta, Ontario, and Riverside, along with County of San Bernardino, responded to assist with battling the blaze.  

In total, more than 130 firefighters from thirty engine companies and four truck companies responded to the blaze. They were assisted by three bulldozers, as well as a Breathing Support Unit, Riverside County Fire Department’s Hazardous Materials Team and Hazardous Materials Support Unit, a Paramedic Squad, American Medical Response medics, and environmental health officials.

As firefighters battled towering flames they were forced to deal with numerous explosions and excessive heat in temperatures that hovered near 100 degrees throughout the afternoon.

Despite their efforts, the large building was fully engulfed within the first hour and the storage annex’s roof ended up collapsing.

The detached thrift store was spared but sustained heavy smoke damage, according to Robert Brennan, director of communication for the Salvation Army’s Southern California Division.

Brennan also said that while the thrift shop was spared by the blaze, the destruction of the annex claimed the entire stock of donated items; which he described as “a total loss.”

Officials have estimated yesterday’s blaze caused approximately $3.5 million in structural damages and inventory losses. Robert Carter/Public Safety Incidents photo

The fire was contained by 9 p.m., Cal Fire officials later reported; however, fire resources remained at the scene throughout the night conducting extensive mop up of the structure and surrounding area.

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The men displaced by the blaze, who were in the Riverside County Adult Rehabilitation Center drug and alcohol rehabilitation program at the complex, were later taken to the Salvation Army’s Riverside Corp facility, where they had to sleep on the floor, Brennan said Wednesday.

They were expected to be taken to the organization’s Pine Summit Christian Camp at Big Bear Lake, according to Brennan.

“It’s fortunately open – not operating as a summer camp because of COVID – but we have a facility there and we are taking them there today,” he explained.

One firefighter was reportedly hospitalized for extreme weakness and exhaustion, but no other injuries were reported after the fire, the cause of which remains under investigation.


Click any image to open full-size gallery.

Robert Carter/Public Safety Incidents photos above, video below.


Justin Howe/The Rugged West photos above, video below.


John Strangis/ENMedia video above.


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Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 48, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, (the now defunct) Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 29 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 16 grandchildren.

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