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Fire that destroyed Carmichael produce stand was arson, officials say

Video: Carmichael produce stand fire

The Farmer's Wife fruit and vegetable stand burned early on June 19, 2015. The stand has been in existence for 40 years, according to co-owner Gordon Martell. Officials say the fire was arson. Video by Madeline Lear/The Sacramento Bee.
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The Farmer's Wife fruit and vegetable stand burned early on June 19, 2015. The stand has been in existence for 40 years, according to co-owner Gordon Martell. Officials say the fire was arson. Video by Madeline Lear/The Sacramento Bee.

The Farmer’s Wife fruit and vegetable stand, a summertime institution for decades in Carmichael, was destroyed by fire early Friday.

“It’s absolutely totaled,” said Rosemarie Martell, who owns the produce stand with her husband, Gordon. “It’s got to be arson. I’m really upset today.”

Firefighters were dispatched to the location at 1:51 a.m. Friday, and investigators subsequently determined the fire was arson.

In addition to the stand itself at Hackberry Lane and Winding Way, Gordon Martell said that a produce van and tables were burned.

The stand normally opens in April and stays in business until Halloween. Gordon Martell said that the stand has been in existence for 40 years, although he and his wife have owned it only since 1998.

Gordon Martell said that vandals have been a problem all spring.

“The other day, they busted a window on the van; a couple of days later, they broke into the van and stole all kinds of stuff out of it,” Martell said. “Continuous little problems. But this morning was a big problem.”

The Martells grow heirloom tomatoes and other produce on 7 acres of property next to the produce stand at 5701 Winding Way. However, peaches and other produce are obtained from farms in outlying areas such as Hughson, Stanislaus County and Woodland.

Martell drives to the farms himself, although right now he is hampered by a medical problem.

“People come down from Placerville and all over to buy from us,” he said. “They like the old-fashioned apricots that are hard to find. I have a source. The ones in the store are not that good.”

Fire officials ask anyone with information about the fire to call the arson tipline at (916) 859-3775.

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