A five-alarm fire tore through a Bronx commercial street early Saturday and left 14 stores in ruins. It took around 200 firefighters almost six hours hours to control the fire, which broke out around 3 a.m. at the corner of 204th Street and Bainbridge Avenue in Norwood.
A Mexican restaurant was open when the fire started but everyone was able to get out safely.
"Everybody got out because the whole thing was getting full of smoke and everything," said Francisco Diaz, the owner of Diamantu Poblano Restaurant. "Somebody came to see what was going on, stepped outside and saw the other places were lit up. And when he walked in to tell everybody, everybody was already walking out."
Fire Department officials said the blaze spread very quickly, destroying many businesses that have been fixtures in the Norwood community for years.
"The units got on the scene and tried to make an initial interior attack on the fire," said FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief John Sudnik. "However, the fire very quickly got into the space between the ceiling of the store and the roof boards, and once it got into that space it spread very quickly throughout the 14 stores that were involved."
Only one firefighter suffered minor injuries.
The 20-year-old Bainbridge Bakery, owned by the Mirdita family, was set to re-open Monday after undergoing renovations from fire damage from seven months ago. Yet on Saturday it was gutted out by fire. "We just got the okay to open.... We couldn't get insurance until the store opened back up," said owner John Mirdita.
"I'm very upset. I lost my business. My business already was very slow," said 205 Grocery owner Mick Zaghari. "I don't know what I'm going to do with the people who I owe money to."
Residents walking by found it hard to look at the damage on the well-known commercial strip.
"It's going to be like a ghost town over there. Terrible, right?" said one local.
"It's tragic because this is the main strip... for the Norwood area, and this is a very close-knit community. So it's going to take a big toll," said another.
The cause of the fire was still under investigation Saturday.