Structure fire at the Canal Farm Inn & Motel on Christmas Eve called suspicious December 27, 2013 

A fire at Canal Farm Inn & Motel appears to be suspicious, Fire Department officials said.

The fire reportedly started just after 9 a.m. Tuesday in the 1400 block of East Pacheco Blvd., next to España’s Southwest Bar & Grill.

“We had phone calls from several neighbors reporting there was a fire,” said Fire Chief Chet Guintini. “They indicated four juveniles running from the building.”

A damage estimate was not available, but Guintini said the property is of little value.

“The building needs to come down,” he said. “We’re in the process of trying to get it abated.”

Michael Amabile, owner of España’s restaurant, said the fire occurred on the east side of the motel, which was also damaged by a previous fire.

Amabile once owned the building, but sold the eastern portion to Holiday Inn Express to build a hotel about four years ago.

Amabile said he had rented rooms out of it until the Holiday Inn was ready to start building. The building was abandoned.

Guintini said this is the third time the Fire Department has responded to a fire in that location within the past several years.

Amabile is currently “in litigation” with an insurance company over the property, he said.

“We’re trying to get it resolved,” he added. “So the property can be taken down because, right now with this fire and after the original fire, it’s going to have to be demolished.”

Seventeen fire personnel along with three fire engines, the Los Banos Police Department and Merced County Fire Department Station 71 responded to the blaze.

Reporter Marina Gaytan can be reached at (209) 826-3831, ext. 6562, or

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