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Vintage Roofing Tile Company hangs on even after arson attack

The aftermath of the arson fire has left the owners of a 35-year-old Vintage Tile Service barred from entering their long established business.

A suspected serial arsonist admitted to lighting the fire that destroyed a 125,000-square-foot building that housed Vintage Roofing Tiles.
A suspected serial arsonist admitted to lighting the fire that destroyed a 125,000-square-foot building that housed Vintage Roofing Tiles.
Amy Nilson
Arson Fire destroys roofing tile warehouse
Amy Nilson

The Five-Alarm Warehouse fire was ignited sometime before 5:00 am near a 125,000-square-foot building that housed Vintage Roofing Tiles located at 1325 E. Julian Street in San Jose.

Mr. and Mrs. Dave Helmuth have been working for more than 7-hours trying to shore up a wall to help protect what was left of their inventory that has taken them over 35-years to collect. Mrs. Helmuth said, “We have a friend who took some of it to his place.” Since the fire, the Helmuth's have only been able to salvage a small portion of the tiles stored in the warehouse. Mrs. Helmuth said, she was just beginning to realizing how much damage had been done.

Units from San Jose Firehouse 8 responded to the scene only to find the warehouse completely engulfed in flames. Due to the high risk of asbestos and other cancerous toxins being released in the air, firefighters doused the flames from the outside walls long into the next day, in order to stop any possible out-gassing from objects still burning inside the warehouse.

A plea for residence to shelter in place was requested by local authorities as local elementary schools used an automated call service to warn parents not to bring their children to school.

With 40 separate styles and designs, Vintage Roofing Tiles was the best place to go for refurbished roofing tiles. Mrs. Helmuth said, "We never let any tiles go to the dump." Some of the designs included in the inventory were: Roma, Villa and Cap & Pan Styles. With great luck and a steady service, Mrs. Helmuth said, “we are still receiving orders for our roofing tiles”.

However there was still a large question that remained as what to do with the antique roofing tiles might not be able to salvage due to the heat that resulted from the fire. Mrs. Helmuth said, “heat from the fire has made the tiles brittle and easy to break apart”.
Mrs. Helmuth said, “As of right now we are just moving out what we think we can salvage.” She said, “Dave has been on the forklift for the last seven hours strait trying to save as much as he can”.

Dave Helmuth drove a battery powered forklift on site lifting piles and box crates of salvaged tiles. He began to fence up the area with wooden crates hoping to save other tiles that they might be able to move out of the burned out warehouse.

The owner of the building told the Helmuth's that the walls of the warehouse still needed to be shored up before anyone could go inside to see what could be saved.

Mrs. Helmuth said, “The full effect of what has happened hadn’t really sunk in yet, but it’s starting to”. She said, “When me and my husband were getting ready to come to the site, the sound of fire truck sirens near their home just a short distance from a restaurant close by made us ask ourselves what is up.”

The Flames Coffee Shop located at 1812 Hillsdale Ave. burned around 6:20 a.m. Saturday morning due to a cooking oil fire in the kitchen area.

Mrs. Helmuth recalled feeling a sense of dread after hearing the fire engines responding to the call. She said, the feeling of loss had just started to sink in.

Despite knowing that the San Jose Police Department had arrested the serial arsonist responsible for 10-arson fires along with 3-attempted fires, they were both still on edge about what to do about losing their warehouse.