Hookah lounge fire was arson, says investigator

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Investigators believe a fire at a hookah lounge in a Phoenix strip mall early Monday morning was arson.

It happened at about 5:30 a.m. in the area of 35th Avenue and Cactus Road. Firefighters were on the scene in less than five minutes.

According to Capt. Larry Nuñez of the Phoenix Fire Department, the initial call was about a debris fire outside the building.

"When they arrived, they found fire had extended into the hollow spaces up above that fire and was running both ways," he said.

Spread is always a concern with a fire in this kind of building, but crews were able to contain the flames and the damage to a single suite housing Night Lover, which also is a pool hall.

Aerial video showed dozens of firefighters at the entrance to Night Lover, which had only been in business for a bit longer longer than three months.

Nuñez said his investigator is calling the fire arson based on information from several witnesses.

"At this point, he's saying it is arson," Nuñez explained. "They're getting some information from some bystanders that somebody had made some threats against the business."

Those witnesses, who were at a 24-hour restaurant a few doors down from the hookah lounge, reported seeing that person near the business before the fire broke out.

"Our arson investigators are trying to follow up on that information about this individual," Nuñez continued.

Investigators believe the suspect lit up a couch that was outside the lounge.

In addition to the witness accounts, there reportedly is surveillance video from a shop next door to  Night Lover called Cactus RC & Hobbies. A representative of the store told 3TV's Gibby Parra they've had nothing but trouble with patrons of the hookah lounge since it opened.

No injuries were reported.