3 Fires Cause $400,000 Damage; Firefighter Hurt : Emergencies: A Laundromat burned under 'suspicious' circumstances in Garden Grove in the same shopping center where a Thrifty Drug Store blaze caused by arson broke out last December.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Separate fires gutted a residential garage in La Habra, a mobile home in El Toro and a Laundromat in Garden Grove early Monday--leaving one firefighter slightly injured and causing nearly $400,000 in total damage.

The coin-operated laundry blaze occurred in the shopping center where a Thrifty Drug Store burned down last December in one of the most expensive arson fires in Garden Grove history. Firefighters were investigating Monday's 5:15 a.m. fire, which resulted in heavy smoke damage to two businesses that were also damaged in last year's fire.

In La Habra, Brea firefighter Mike Thompson was treated at a local hospital for smoke inhalation and released after helping fight a garage fire that broke out at 3:44 a.m. in the 1000 block of Encinitas Street.

The fire started in a two-car garage and quickly spread to an adjoining single-family home, where the homeowner and sole occupant escaped without harm, acting La Habra Fire Department Capt. Fred Bowe said.

The fire, which Bowe described as suspicious, took 13 firefighters from La Habra and Brea about 20 minutes to control. Damage was estimated at $80,000 to the garage's structure and contents, which included a 1989 automobile. Moderate smoke damage was also reported in the house, Bowe said.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation late Monday. Bowe would not elaborate on why it was considered suspicious.

In Garden Grove, the Laundromat in the 10800 block of Katella Avenue caught fire before dawn and was fully engulfed by the time city firefighters arrived.

The blaze was so intense, said fire information officer Ellen Covey, that Battalion Chief Vince Bonacker sounded a second alarm and called in 37 firefighters and nine pieces of equipment to prevent the blaze from spreading to adjoining businesses.

However, the firefighters were unable to keep the fire and from causing heavy smoke damage to the adjoining Circle K Cleaners and to South Coast Research--the same two businesses that received smoke damage in the Dec. 27 Thrifty store fire, Covey said.

Damage to the Laundromat was estimated at $200,000--$100,000 each to the building and the contents. The Laundromat, owned by a man identified by fire officials as Choong Song, was apparently unoccupied at the time. Covey said that the fire "certainly looks suspicious," and the cause remains under investigation.

The Thrifty Drug Store fire last December--one of the largest in Garden Grove's history--caused an estimated $2 million in damage and was deliberately set inside the store, investigators concluded. The fire required the efforts of nearly 50 firefighters and 12 pieces of equipment and took three hours to control.

In El Toro, firefighters battled a mobile home fire that apparently started when a woman fell asleep while smoking in bed, fire officials said.

The 60-year-old woman, who was not identified, was treated for minor smoke inhalation by paramedics, Orange County Fire Department Capt. Dan Young said.

More than 25 firefighters responded to Space 97 at the Forest Gardens Mobile Home Park on 24001 Muirlands Boulevard at 2:58 a.m. and contained the blaze within 12 minutes, Young said. The fire caused an estimated $90,000 in damage.

Young said the mobile home was equipped with a smoke detector, but the batteries were dead.

Times staff writer Matt Lait contributed to this report.

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