PLEASANT HILL -- Fire investigators are searching for the culprit behind a "suspicious" strip mall fire after finding the makings of a Molotov cocktail sitting in front of a torched hair salon, officials said.

About 11:15 p.m. Sunday, crews responded to a fire at a shopping center in the 500 block of Contra Costa Boulevard and saw smoke coming from a hair salon, Contra Costa County Fire Investigator Vic Massenkoff said. Firefighters contained the fire by about 11:35 p.m.

No injuries were reported in the blaze, though a woman had been sleeping inside a massage business located in the strip mall, Massenkoff said. The woman was not hurt and escaped safely after she was likely awakened by the commercial fire alarm.

Investigators called the blaze suspicious, saying that the Magic Touch Beauty Salon, the family-owned business badly damaged in the blaze, was a target of arson. Crews recovered a Corona beer bottle stuffed with accelerant and a rag near the front window of the business, a concoction that had not yet ignited, Massenkoff said.

The front window, found broken upon crews' arrival, had been shattered before the fire even broke out, according to Massenkoff, suggesting the fire likely started in the front of the business.

The beer bottle will go to a forensic lab for analysis, and will be emptied of its contents so the glass container can be checked for fingerprints, Massenkoff said. Investigators have not yet named any suspects.


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"Once you determine where it started, you're pretty much down on your hands and knees sifting through potential evidence," Massenkoff said.

The blaze did not spread to any of the adjacent businesses, though some were impacted when fire investigators opened up the ceiling spaces to check for spreading and smoke damage, Massenkoff said. Estimated cost of damage to the salon, which has been open about a year and a half, was estimated at about $100,000.

A follow-up investigation is being performed by both the Contra Costa Fire Protection District and the Pleasant Hill police department, Massenkoff said.

Investigators ask anyone with information about this incident to contact the arson tip line at 866-50-ARSON. The line is open to both English- and Spanish-speaking callers, who may choose to be contacted by investigators or to remain anonymous.

Contact Erin Ivie at 925-847-2122. Follow her at Twitter.com/erin_ivie.