Photos: Fire destroys Country Food Market in El Mirage

Posted: Updated:
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

EL MIRAGE, Ariz. -- Investigators are trying to determine what sparked an early morning fire that destroyed an El Mirage mom-and-pop grocery store called Country Food Market.

When fire crews arrived on the scene near Grand Avenue and Thunderbird Road at about 1 a.m., the fire was raging out of control. Huge flames had already engulfed the building.

Crews immediately launched a search to see if anyone was inside the store, which had been part of the community for decades. The intense flames and heavy smoke reduced visibility to nearly zero.

Firefighters quickly realized that they could not save the store. Not long after they got there, the roof collapsed. Aerial video from the scene showed the massive gaping hole.

Crews went defensive and focused on protecting nearby buildings, including at least one home, which was evacuated as a precaution.

Rick Henderson, the resident of that home, was awakened by the flashing lights of the fire trucks. He said he had only moments to get out of his house.

“My heart was racing," Henderson said. "I wasn't sure what was going on. I mean, just to have something this close happening to my house, this close, it scares me."

Firefighters were able to keep the fast-moving flames from spreading to Henderson's home.

Because the flames were so large and widespread when they arrived, crews suspect the fire had been burning for some time before they were alerted.

Firefighters from six different departments worked together to get this big fire under control. The fire was completely out by 5 a.m.

Crews were still mopping up and watching for flare-ups when investigators arrived on the scene about an hour later. They will spend the morning trying to determine exactly when, where and how the fire started.

While the building was destroyed, no injuries were reported.

Country Food Market had been a fixture in El Mirage for more than 70 years.