Firefighters were working to learn the cause of an early-morning blaze that engulfed a strip mall in Gastonia on Thursday and temporarily closed part of Old York Road.
The fire was reported about 4:30 a.m. at Gunn’s Mini Mall on Old York near Grier Street. Firefighters found flames coming through the roof of one of the businesses.
The strip mall had five businesses, including Roy Gunn’s Carpet World and a tax office, said Roy Gunn of Gastonia. His wife also had a beauty shop and his daughter a cloth shop.
Gunn said he was asleep early Thursday when he got a call that his business was on fire.
“When I got there, the roof was burning like crazy,” he said.
Gunn said a person who lives near the mini-mall spotted someone leaving a metal building early Thursday and then saw a blaze.
Tommy Ritch, 65, said he smelled smoke when he woke up about 4:30 a.m. Thursday. Shortly afterward, he got a call from his son who lives two houses from the strip mall.
“He said it was a big blaze,” Ritch said. “He said …‘Daddy, that place is flat burnt up. I don’t see how they’ll save anything.’ ”
Gunn estimated the damage to the building at $1 million and said his insurance would cover about half of that. Firefighters said they were able to save contents in two businesses.
About 65 firefighters from seven departments were called to help control the blaze. In all, crews spent more than four hours at the site.
The fire response led authorities to close portions of Old York Road and northbound U.S. 321.
Gunn said the strip mall began as a family venture 40 years ago. He spent $30,000 on a new roof four months ago.
He said he felt helpless as he watched the fire Thursday.
“It was rough,” Gunn said. “It took me 40 years to build it up and two hours to burn down. But there’s nothing you could do. That’s the way the ball bounces. There’s no use to cry.”
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