Extra-alarm fire rages through strip mall

October 1, 2009 (CHICAGO) Traffic had been detoured around the area at Cermak and Pulaski. The Super Dollar and Up was destroyed, and four or five other stores were damaged.

The fire was contained by 8:30 a.m.

A firefighter suffered a minor injury, suffering a cut to the face.

No one was inside. One witness who says he called 911 said he saw someone running out of Super Dollar and Up just before smoke began pouring out.

All the stores in the strip mall are closed and damaged. Many people in the neighborhood say that they depend on those stores.

Just before 7 a.m., smoke and flames started pouring out of the shopping center. The blaze and water heavily damaged four stores, including a cell phone shop, a restaurant, and a laundromat.

The Super Dollar store owner says at least a half a million dollars in merchandise is up in smoke.

"I have plasma TVs. I have furniture. I have beauty supplies. I have linens, just like a little Wal-Mart, exactly the same things, but in the little size. I have every single item you can ever imagine," said Jamal Abdelkaram, owner, Super Dollar and Up.

Business owners and residents say the relatively new shopping strip is an asset to the community.

"They have the economy right here in the North Lawndale community; it's definitely one of the restaurants that people come to grab something to eat, fast food on a Friday or Saturday night," said Karen Johnson, resident.

"We're worried about our customers now. It's kind of bad, all the neighborhood depends on this Laundromat," said Ronnie Ferrell, laundromat manager.

Laundromat employees saw the fire break out. One supervisor says he called 911.

"I saw a figure run across the front door from the inside, so I called 911. That's when I saw the smoke under the door," said Fredrick Clark, Laundromat supervisor.

Firefighters say they have no theories as to how the fire started. They did bring extra crews to fight the flames from spreading on the rooftop and equipment to battle potential chemicals inside the stores.

"Because you never know what's going to be inside there," said firefighter Gene Ryan. "You got helium tanks that blow up balloons, sometimes battery acid, propane cans, small quantity stuff so. We have the guys go around, check to make sure the area is safe, so the community is safe, as well as all our personnel."

The laundromat managers say they will open as fast as they can. That store only had water damage.

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