A fire that destroyed most of a senior citizens center under construction in Thousand Oaks was caused by arson, Ventura County officials said Tuesday.
William O’Byran Hager, a fire investigation specialist, said firefighters found evidence that the blaze at the Goebel Senior-Adult Center early Saturday did not begin accidentally. He declined to comment further pending an investigation by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.
The city has hired security guards to patrol the construction site at 1385 E. Janss Road, said Thousand Oaks Mayor Lawrence E. Horner. The arsonist probably climbed a chain-link fence surrounding the property, he said.
“We relied on the fence to be a deterrent, as is customary,” Horner said. “We’re all terribly saddened by this tragedy.”
The center, to which city officials committed $2.5 million in construction funds, was scheduled to open in October. It was to be more than twice the size of the city’s existing, overcrowded center on Conejo School Road.
The new center was insured and will be rebuilt, although the opening will be delayed up to a year, Horner said.
The extent of damage to the gutted wood-frame and concrete structure will be determined this week by a team of structural engineers, Horner said. He estimated damage to be at least $1.4 million and said it could be higher if the building has to be razed.
A nearby teen center, which is also under construction, was untouched by the fire.
Mark Schrock, recreation supervisor at the existing center, said senior citizens were shocked when they learned of the fire, which he called “a real blow.”