Chico, Calif.-- Early Monday morning, firefighters responded to a fire at the Alpha Garden Supply on Walnut Street which is now being investigated as being suspicious.
The store’s owner did not did not want to go on camera but allowed Action News Now inside his store to see some of the damage caused by the fire.
Nearby business owners are frustrated and said they believe this fire may have been started by a transient.
Fire crews responded to the store just after five this morning. According to Chris Zinko, the chief of operations for the Chico Fire Department, said they believe it started in a recycling bin right outside the back door before spreading into the inside.
A man was said to be fleeing from the scene on bike.
"The description of the person, he was in a tan jacket, white male about five foot ten on a blue bike. I asked PD to do an area search of the description I had of him," Zinko said.
Joelle Zavala and her husband Robert own the Walnut Express Laundromat next door and said they were woken up by a call this morning about the fire.
"I'm angry, I'm hurt, my friend. We're family here. Kathy's deli, the laundromat, tommy, we're family," Zavala said.
For months now, she said the businesses in the plaza are constantly dealing with transients. At one point, one of them even assaulted her husband.
"They're everywhere, we have two businesses and that's all we deal with, it's stressful. I don't want to get in the car and go anywhere because we never know what's going to happen," Zavala said.
She said they've had to hire their own private security because it's become such a problem. At one point, some of them even set up a camp next to the alley behind their store.
"It’s maddening when it feels like we're not getting help and it keeps getting worse and worse. It's scary because we haven't seen anything get better," Zavala said.
She went on to say she's thankful the fire didn't spread to her business, but that it was still too close to comfort.
Now she has one request from the city.
"To help us. I mean you don't even want to take your kids to the park anymore, everything's just dirty, it's dirty, it's gross, and it’s scary. It's not okay. It's not okay when you can't take your kids to the park, that's a problem," she said.
If you know who may be responsible for starting this fire, you can call the Chico Fire or Police Department.