A badly singed "Closed" sign swayed in the charred window of Hazel'sGifts and Cards yesterday after a three-alarm arson fire gutted the store in a Glen Burnie shopping center.
While shoppers stopped to stare, firefighters chopped down still-smoldering roof beams, and theowners of surrounding stores began cleaning up damaged merchandise.
Investigators sifted through the rubble for more clues to the blaze that ripped through the gift shop about 12:30 a.m. and sent a county firefighter to the hospital. The fire was deliberately set, said Capt. J. Gary Sheckells, the Fire Department's spokesman.
More than60 firefighters battled the blaze for nearly six hours at the East Park shopping center on Crain Highway, a couple of miles from the Interstate 97 expressway. The fire caused at least $375,000 worth of damage to the strip center, Sheckells said.
One of the firefighters suffered first- and second-degree burns trying to prevent flames from spreading to adjoining stores. Deborah Sosnoski, a six-year veteran with the department, was taken to North Arundel Hospital for treatment and observation for possible smoke inhalation. The 35-year-old Glen Burnie resident was treated for burns to her knees and released yesterday afternoon, a hospital spokesman said.
Firefighters arrived to find smoke billowing from the back of Hazel's Gifts and Cards, Sheckells said. Two more alarms sounded, and 15 firetrucks and ambulances were called, before the blaze was brought under control at 1:12 a.m., he said.
The blaze began to rip through the roof, but firefighterssucceeded in containing it to the gift shop. Hazel's Gifts and Cardswas gutted and nearly all the contents destroyed. Damage to the merchandise initially was assessed at $125,000, but could be much more, Sheckells said.
At least four adjoining stores were damaged by smoke and water. The shopping center's anchor, Giant Food, is in a separate building and escaped harm.
Employees at Etcetera Hair Plus Tans, a beauty salon next to the gift shop, spent yesterday afternoon washing and boxing dozens of shampoo bottles and hair spray cans. Meanwhile, a food inspector with the county Health Department visited a Chinese restaurant at the end of the strip center to determine if it could reopen. The inspector suggested that the Fortune Cookie restaurantfirst replace some water-soaked tiles.
Fire investigators met yesterday with the owner of the shopping center, who was identified as Joseph Delorado. They also questioned several store owners in an effort to find out why the gift shop was set on fire. The department did not release the type of arson yesterday.