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Investigators Find Arson Possible Cause of Fire in the Serra Center at Mission San Luis Rey

Oceanside CA— Firefighters from Oceanside Fire Department were dispatched at 4:56 am on March 24, 2020, to a ringing Building Alarm at 4076 Mission Ave. Oceanside E217 upgraded the incident to a Commercial Structure Fire once on scene and detecting the strong smell of smoke.

E217 pulled hose lines for a primary search of the structure and fire control.  Subsequent units from Oceanside, Vista, and Camp Pendleton assisted in keeping the fire contained to the room of origin.  The building in question is the Serra Center, which is associated with the Mission San Luis Rey Parish.

The room of the fire is a storage room off the main room in which masses are held.  This building is not associated with the historical proper Mission San Luis Rey, but adjacent to it on the property.

Fire units achieved knockdown on the fire within fifteen minutes and damage to the structure was kept to a minimum.

An initial evaluation of the scene indicates this fire was incendiary and is a possible arson.  Since it involves a place of worship, the Oceanside Fire Department (OFD) contacted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms San Diego (ATF-SD) unit to assist.

A team consisting of OFD Fire Investigators, an Oceanside Police (OPD) Arson Detective, OPD Field Evidence Technicians, and an ATF-San Diego fire investigator performed a scene survey and an origin and cause investigation of the incident.  Evidence was collected for evaluation, some of which will be pending results from laboratory analysis.

In addition, the Serra Center is not a sprinklered building, but was built to applicable codes at the time of construction. It is clear that the smoke detector activation saved this building from a very high dollar loss.  Current estimate of damage is $17,000.  Current estimate of total building value saved is $1,753,000.


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