Nine units destroyed after strip mall fire in Mesa

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

MESA, Ariz. -- Mesa firefighters say nine businesses went up in flames Sunday after a fire started in a strip mall.

No one was inside any of the units at the time. Officials said the fire started in the middle of the Granite Reef Plaza near Power Road and Main Street just after noon and quickly spread to both ends of the building.

The fire was fueled by wind gusts as much as 30 miles per hour.

Sixty firefighters from Mesa, Gilbert, Apache Junction and Rural Metro responded and managed to save one of the units. Unfortunately, Patrick Venjohn's business, Ace Flooring, wasn't the lucky one.

"I don't know what to say right now, just in shock," Venjohn said. "We'll figure it out tomorrow and see where we're going from here and what we're going to do."

The business has been in the family for the last two decades. Venjohn is trying to stay positive.

"Everything happens for a reason," he said. "We'll see. Could be bigger and better things in the future."

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

A dozen homes to the north of the strip mall had to be evacuated because of smoke, but residents were eventually allowed to go back home.

Ralph and Cathy Witt rushed over after their friend, Karen Shellberg, gave them a frantic call. Shellberg was out of town in Las Vegas for a dog show. Her business, Main Street Grooming, was one of the small businesses destroyed by the fire.

Shellberg said she and her employees lost everything in the fire.

"As far as I know this was the main income, it was a growing business," Ralph Witt said. "She had built it up quite a bit. This is definitely gonna hurt."

To add to the pain, Shellberg's cat was spending the night inside the business.

Six people, including a Mesa police officer, were treated for smoke inhalation.