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BRIGHTON, Colo. -- The owners of Tortilleria El Valle say the damage caused by a fire that roared through four shops on North Main Street Friday night was far worse than expected.
"It was a complete loss of the family business," said Alan Gray. "We purchased the shop late last year and took ownership January 1."
When asked about the personal impact of the fire and the loss of income Gray said, "That part is devastating. We try not to think about that too much because we don't really know how that's going to affect us, but we know that if we do our best, with God on our side, we'll keep pushing forward."
Gray told Denver7 that family members entered a portion of the business Wednesday morning. It was their first time since the fire.
He said they had hoped there would be some equipment inside, that they could salvage and move to a new location, to start the business anew.
"But everything inside is ash," he said. "To see everything that you worked 14 to 16 hours a day for is now just charcoal... is beyond description."
"I was thinking it might not be too bad," said Gray's brother-in-law, Sergio Mosqueda, "but it's really, really bad."
Drone video, released by the Brighton Fire Department on Tuesday, shows the extent of the damage. The exterior walls remain standing, but the entire roof has collapsed, and the contents of at least four businesses, Llantera La Michoacana Tires & Wheels, Carniceria Jerez, Las Palomas Miscelaneos and Tortilleria El Valle, were charred beyond recognition.
Investigators say the fire began Friday afternoon when a welder began working on an SUV in the repair portion of the tire shop.
The flames spread to the tire inventory and to other automobiles, then spread to the other shops.
When asked his reaction to how the fire started, Gray said, "The fire was an accident. Our main concern was the safety of everyone involved. Things happen. It's something you can't control."
Neighboring business owners struggle too
Gray told Denver7 that Friday was a regular day, until the smell of smoke wafted through the air. He said as the fire spread, his wife, Sara, ran out of the building and accounted for everyone she knew was working in the entire building.
"That's how we found out there was one person missing," he said. "They were able to get in the building and save him."
Gray said the families that own the other businesses are also struggling to get back on their feet.
He said they're all looking for replacement locations, but added it's not easy in this real estate market.
Family finds commercial mixer in storage
Gray said he and Sergio Mosqueda were allowed access into their storage building adjacent to the tortilla shop.
He said they found a commercial mixer, which they intend to use once they find a new location to open shop.
He said the mixer can make masa, which is used to make corn tortillas and tamales.
Gray said they have loyal customers who have come to depend on those tortillas and tamales, as well as barbacoa and menudo.
"We supply residents and markets from Greeley to Aurora to Boulder," he said.
He said they've found some equipment and will be able to begin making corn tortillas in another facility in a short time, but added that they're still looking for equipment to make flour tortillas, and a location for their permanent family base of operations.
He said if anyone has equipment they can use, he'd like to hear from them.
As tough as things look for the family, Sergio Mosqueda said, "The good is that we are still a family and are still together. Together, we'll take it to the top."