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Customers heartbroken over four Palm Desert businesses destroyed by fire

Update 4/16/24

CAL FIRE announced that a suspect were arrested in connection with the fire. The suspect, whose identity has not been released, is facing multiple charges including arson. They have been booked by CAL FIRE Prevention Officers into the Smith Detention Center in Banning.

Original Report 4/15/24

Several locals are in shock after discovering some of their favorite businesses around town burned down. A once bustling area, was completely empty and abandoned, a fence and security guard in place to keep people out of the property.

“It's disturbing, very disturbing,” said Sheri Okun. "I'm absolutely heartbroken for everyone." Okun frequented several of the businesses that were destroyed in a two-alarm fire early Sunday morning. She loved grabbing a lunch and coffee from Mona, the owner of the D'Coffee Bouteaque.

“This was her, her darling. This was her love," she said as she looked toward the empty building. "They built such a following. And they were always busy. And she treated everyone as a personal guest.”

Okun also enjoyed stopping by Papa Dan's, a pizza shop she's been supporting for 18-years.

"Papa Dan's was wonderful," said Okun. "And they were quite really quality, quality pizza.”

Throughout the day, people could be seen walking by to check out the damage, many of them, snapping pictures in disbelief. One person even came to drop off a flower bouquet and a note.

“It's devastating," said Carroll Morgan. Morgan works at a nearby Starbucks, and says she walked by the area on her way home every day, even grabbing lunch at Papa Dan's often. "I mean, it's always so lively in the cafe," Morgan said. "Especially with people sitting outside with their families, their dogs, and then the waitresses were always so sweet."

Morgan lives in the neighborhood behind the shopping center, and was one of the few dozen homes that were temporarily told to evacuate by fire fighters.

"It was pretty insane," said Morgan. "I was dead asleep. And my mother in law came banging on the door saying 'there's a fire you need to leave'. I woke up and she was very frantic because there was a lot of smoke outside.”

Morgan was able to see the nine fire engines working to put out the flames, which broke out around 3:30 a.m. on Sunday.

"Like four of the engines had ladders that looked like they were fully extended and water was just being poured out," Morgan recalled. "There was so much water that it turned into a river going into our community actually. You could see the Miracle Ear's little earbud pieces in the plastic bags just floating all down the water. It was was pretty intense, like debris, you could smell it, it was pretty bad.”

She also says one of her neighbors was the person who made the initial 9-1-1 call.

"They heard a lady saying 'help, help'," Morgan said. "And when they went outside to go see what was going on. That's when they saw that the businesses were on fire."

Both Morgan and Okun say they hope the business owners can pick up the pieces and build again.

"Everybody was like, 'Oh my gosh, we gotta start GoFundMe pages for the coffee shop to help support them'," said Morgan. "I know, the community is pretty devastated that these shops are gone. Papa Dan's was an icon. It's just so sad, I feel bad for the employees. They are all being so positive about it."

News Channel Three's Tori King reached out to fire officials to see if they had any type of update on the investigation, but they say it is still currently ongoing.

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Tori King


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