Investigators search for cause of El Paseo Union Bank fire

Investigators search for cause of Union Bank fire. Natalie Brunell reports.

PALM DESERT, Calif. - Much of the Union Bank on El Paseo is now rubble. 

"I haven't seen a fire like that in Palm Desert in quite a while and I've lived here a long time," said Paul Kortz, who witnessed the fire last night.  

Firefighters and other investigators were on the scene early Saturday morning spraying water, cleaning up debris and trying to determine what happened.  

There's no word yet whether arson was involved.

"That's still under investigation, we heard that there were several alarms going off in businesses on El Paseo," said Captain Mort Allen of Cal Fire.

The fire became a local spectacle, with people crowding the streets to watch the blaze. And they returned Saturday morning to see the damage. 

"It was kind of strange. It was almost a gathering, people just kind of watching something happen," Kortz said.

Gary Brown is a Union Bank customer who learned of the fire when he drove by the scene this morning.

"I was driving down El Paseo from Keedy's having breakfast and I saw the bank had burned down.  And i immediately thought about my valuables in my safe deposit box," Brown said. 

Brown had to call his wife and tell her several thousand dollars worth of jewelry, gold coins and irreplaceable documents might be gone.  

"More importantly the documents that are in there would take a lot of time to replace.  You know wills, USBs and things my children would need to know if they needed to get in there," Brown said. 

We tried to contact Union Bank representatives to get more information for the customers but they could not be reached for comment. Fire officials are calling the bank a total loss. 

"We're estimating the loss roughly around $5 million," Allen said. 

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