Early Morning Fire Destroys Row of Stores in Bronx

NY 1 - December 22, 2009

After almost six hours, firefighters contained flames at a row of stores in Norwood in the Bronx. A five-alarm fire began around 4:30 a.m. Monday at a row of stores on 204th Street and Bainbridge Avenue in Norwood.

A recently-renovated Foodtown supermarket, a diner, a dentist's office and a bank were gutted. Fire officials say no one was inside the stores during the fire.

More than 160 firefighters battled the fire and one firefighter was hospitalized with minor injuries.

"The fire originated in the basement. There was a tremendous amount of fire on arrival," said Fire Department Assistant Chief Edward Baggot. "The biggest challenge was accessing that basement. We were actually driven out of that position and had to go to an exterior attack."

Fire officials say a fire on the same street on Halloween that destroyed seven businesses was deemed suspicious.

"All of these fires started late at night when no one was around," said Bronx Councilman G. Oliver Koppel. "I mean, it just doesn't seem to me to be coincidental."

"First we lose all those stores that have been here for 34 years, versus all those stores alongside. Out of nowhere, there's a fire and now this side. You going to tell me that's not suspicious?" said a local.

According to the manager of Foodtown, the supermarket employed 50 people and is too damaged to reopen before Christmas.

"I'm so devastated, so upset. No work now. No Christmas, no work," said Foodtown employee Virginia Lopez.

"It's the 21st of December, where are we going to shop around here? It's terrible, it's terrible," said one local.

"When I walked out, I told her, 'I think you better wake up and come over here.' And she said, 'I hope it's not Foodtown,' and as we walked [over], it's Foodtown," said another. "And they just renovated, so beautiful inside."

Officials are still investigating the cause of Monday's fire.