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Commercial fire in south Boyle Heights damages family business

September 21, 2010 |  9:14 am

A fire gutted an East L.A. alcohol distributing business that has been in the neighborhood since the end of Prohibition, one of the owners said Tuesday.

“It’s almost a total loss,” said Sam Saporito, who put the damage at East L.A. Wholesale Beverages in the millions.

It took 120 city and county firefighters just over an hour to extinguish the blaze, which broke out at about 10:40 p.m. Monday in the 3600 block of Whittier Boulevard, Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Erik Scott said in a blog post.

No injuries were reported.

“Firefighters … fought their way through scorching heat, thick smoke and boxes of merchandise to locate the origin of the flames,” Scott said.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation Tuesday.

Saporito, 37, said the business was founded in 1933 and has been in his family for three generations.

“We sell to a lot of mom-and-pop liquor stores, restaurants and bars,” he said, adding he was determined to keep the business open. “We had a fire a long time ago, before I was here, but they got that one out real quick,” he said. “This one takes the cake.”

-- Alexandra Zavis

Photo: Sam Saporito, right, a third-generation owner of east East L.A. Wholesale Liquors in Boyle Heights, surveys the damage to his business with driver Joey Hernandez. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times.