The aftermath of last May's fire that engulfed the Safari and El Conquistador restaurants in downtown Sunnyside continues.
Last week neighboring property owners filed suit against Rigoberto and Enedina Carrasco, owners of the Safari Restaurant where the blaze originated.
The suit was filed in Yakima County Superior Court and seeks damages from the Carrascos, claiming negligence was responsible for the fire.
The suit asserts the fire was caused by water leaking through a poorly maintained roof into an electrical panel. It also alleges that the Carrascos stored tires and other debris next to a gas line, which made the blaze more difficult to extinguish.
Yakima attorney Rick Burchak represents the owners of the Blue Moon Bar and Grill, Auto Beauty Salon, El Conquistador Restaurant and Margarita's Design. The businesses were closed or destroyed due to the blaze.
He says information about the cause of the fire and debris next to a gas line was gleaned from a report ATF officials completed while investigating the blaze.
Burchak says the suit was filed by the business owners and their insurance agencies after failing to come to terms with the Carrasco's insurance agency.
"We haven't been able to reach any agreement on liability as to the cause of the fire," he said.
There is no dollar amount listed in the suit because Burchak says the damages are still being tallied.
"We don't know what the dollar amount will be," he said. "It's complicated to figure out the value of the case because you've got the building, demolition, reconstruction, loss of income, loss of inventory and down time."
The Carrascos have 30 days to file an answer to the suit. Burchak says there's a chance of reaching a settlement agreement or mediation before the case goes to court. "It depends on what the insurance company for the Safari will do as a defense," he said.
The lawsuit isn't the first issue that's come up since last May's blaze.
Owners of the neighboring El Conquistador Restaurant, Tiburcio and Socorro Mora, filed bankruptcy and the city of Sunnyside had to incur clean-up costs when the eatery was destroyed in the fire.
"They did not have insurance so they could not afford the clean-up," Burchak said of the Moras.
He said the Moras' creditors, including the city of Sunnyside, can be paid from proceeds the couple receives in an award or settlement from the lawsuit.
Burchak said he sympathizes with the city and all the store owners affected by the blaze, including the Carrascos.
"You do not want a building destroyed by fire just sitting there," he said. "To have a fire that takes out several businesses hurts everybody involved. Hopefully we can get these businesses back up and running."
Sunnyside City Manager Mark Gervasi echoed that sentiment.
"Our priority now is to get the site cleaned up and ready for business," Gervasi said.