Fire Investigation

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Investigators are still trying to figure out what happened Saturday afternoon when a Dollar General store went up in flames destroying an entire shopping plaza.

State fire marshal investigators say it maybe several days before they have all of the answers to Saturday afternoon's fire. In the meantime, they're just sorting through the ashes looking for anything that will help them determine what could have started a fire this size.

Saturday began as a normal day in Graceville until around 4:30 in the afternoon. That's when a fire started at the Dollar General store in the Graceville Outlet Center.

Jeff Merrit of the State Fire Marshal Office says, "There was about 10 customers in the store at the time of the fire as well as three employees."

Investigators spent Monday trying to figure out what could have caused the blaze that destroyed the nearly 50,000 square-foot strip mall. One thing they do know is the Dollar General store had all the right ingredients to help the fire spread.

"Your normal combustible products that are in this type of store, such as paper goods, household cleaners, you have a lot of flammable stuff to contribute to the load of the fire."

From the Dollar General store to the bingo hall where players left their money on the table and ran, every store and office space in the plaza was destroyed.

The physical therapy clinic received minimal damage from the fire, but the smoke and water damage was enough to shut the business down.

Lorrie Laural, a physical therapist, says, "In our unit we didn't lose any equipment or anything like that, just a lot of smoke damage mostly, but the building is left unusable and we're not going to be able to use it."

Investigators estimate the damage to be at least $5 million. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt in the fire. One firefighter did suffer heat exhaustion and was treated at the scene.