By Rachel Wulff

CITRUS HEIGHTS (CBS13) — Fire investigators are looking at a suspicious early morning fire at a commercial building in Citrus Heights.

Surveillance video shows what appears to be a man trying to set a 8200 block of Auburn Boulevard building on fire with a blow torch. Hours later, flames took over as crews worked feverishly to contain it.

“It’s just something unusual,” said Michael Goble as he walked by.

As the morning went on, people were stopping to take a look at the damage.

This isn’t the first time the building has caught their eye.

“I saw a gentleman walking up and down the sidewalk with a sandwich board saying  something about ‘Shame on Mom’s’ and ‘What about Mom’s not paying their rent?’” Goble said.

The building housed Mom’s Florist for two decades. Dan Devries, the owner of the building, says in the last year the tenant failed to pay rent repeatedly.

In March, Devries started the eviction process.

“Since then, she’s been running her business without a business license,” said Devries.

He says she was living in the building illegally and renting out space. He documented conditions inside in cell phone video he showed to CBS13.

“It’s like hoarders living there,” Devries said. “Basically trails going through the rooms, mounds of clothes and garbage and disgust.”

Local businesses complained of homeless loitering and drug dealing there. The City of Citrus Heights and the courts eventually got involved.

Notices on the outside of the building show that code enforcement was there on Oct. 6 and said that there was illegal or improper occupancy and that they had deemed it unsafe. That’s when Devries boarded up the building.

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Devries turned surveillance footage over to arson investigators. He’s now trying to plan what’s next, saying he is out $22,000 in rent and repairs.

“We had a prospective tenant waiting and now we don’t know how long it is going to take for repairs now,” he said.

CBS13 reached out to the owner of the Florist shop, but she has not returned our request for comment.

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