Pelham loses three businesses to fire; witnesses say it was arson - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Pelham loses three businesses to fire; witnesses say it was arson

August 31, 2003

PELHAM - Fred's Dollar Store, Movie Gallery and the future location of Subway were all destroyed Sunday afternoon in a spectacular blaze.  No one was injured.

The fire started around 4:00 inside Fred's Dollar Store on Railroad Street.  Fred's Assistant Manager Debra Taylor said a young boy ran to the front of the store, yelled the toilet paper isle was on fire and ran out. 

"By the time me and the customer went up front to get the fire extinguisher and went back, it had done got out of control," she said.

At least six fire departments - Autry Correctional Institute, Decatur County, Pelham, Camilla, County Line and Cotton - responded to the afternoon inferno. Taylor stood outside helpless, flooded with emotions.

"(I'm) hurt, upset," Taylor said.  "You know, just to know that something like this can take place, because it just caused a lot of people to be out of jobs." At least nine in her store, to be exact, and about six at Movie Gallery.  Subway was preparing to move from their Piggly Wiggly location but had not done so completely.

Witnesses say it may be that same young boy who is to blame for the blaze. Investigators say they are following all leads but don't know just yet who or what is to blame.

Taylor quickly evacuated the store after she couldn't contain the fire and dialed 911. The strip-mall is across the street from the Pelham Fire Department, but low water pressure hampered efforts to douse the flames.

Firefighters remained on the scene late into Sunday evening watching for hot spots.   Meanwhile, Taylor and her employees are looking for work.

"We do have a store opening up in Monticello (Florida), so we might possibly get together and carpool," she said. 

Her spirits were dashed, she said, but all is not lost.  "We're planning on rebuilding."

posted at 10:06 p.m. by mathew.palmer@walb.com