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Fire heavily damages grocery store in West Hazleton

It's now up to investigators to figure out what sparked the flames that heavily damaged a grocery store in Luzerne County.

WEST HAZLETON, Pa. — UPDATE: Officials with Weis say all of the product in the store will be thrown out as a precaution. The pharmacy will be moved to a temporary location. Customers with pharmacy questions can call 1-866-999-9347. Weis also says it plans to reassign the 191 store employees to other area locations while the clean-up continues.

In a statement, Weis tells Newswatch 16:

"In the days ahead, we will determine the extent of the damage to our store and develop a plan and timeline for repairing and reopening our store. We’ve been in Hazleton for more than 60 years and are grateful to the community for its long-time support. We look forward to serving them again."

It took crews from three counties to battle flames at a grocery store in Luzerne County Monday night. The fire also threatened a store next door.

This massive fire was enough to alarm even a veteran firefighter

"I've been a firefighter for 45 years, and I'll tell you, that was quite an unusual situation. I was scared there for a while," said West Hazleton Fire Chief Richard Sparks.

Chief Sparks says around 9:30 p.m. Monday, a utility worker on a bucket truck spotted flames peeking through the roof of the store. About 30 people were inside and were all evacuated.

"First arriving firefighters did a complete 360 check around the building and couldn't find anything," said the chief.

It didn't take long before Mother Nature took over.

"We had like a 180-degree turn in the wind and a big howl of wind, and it grabbed hold of the fire."

The high winds helped spread the flames and fast. Within a few minutes, the whole roof was on fire.

Chief Sparks says the conditions were tough.

"Thick black smoke, zero visibility both on the roof and the ground in the back. It was a little hairy there for a while. I wanted to make sure my firefighters were safely off the roof."

Crews from three counties responded.

The fire was out just before midnight.

One West Hazleton firefighter was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation but is expected to be OK.

Next door at PetSmart, the employees and the animals were all safely evacuated.

"Very severe damage to both stores, Weis Market and PetSmart," said Chief Sparks. "They're going to be out of business for quite some time."

There's no word on what started the fire. The state police fire marshal is investigating.

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