Update: Fire investigators determined Thursday the fire that burned down the Big Star grocery store in Perryville was started in an electrical box in the office of the store.
PERRYVILLE, AR – The Big Star/Perry County Food and Drug in Perryville is a total loss after it caught fire Wednesday afternoon.
Six fire crews responded and were on scene for hours pouring water onto the building. Witnesses tell Fox 16 that the store was packed when the fire started, around 3:45pm, but patrons and employees were all able to exit safely.
Steve Goode, co-owner of Big Star, says he believes the fire may have started in the southwest exterior wall. Goode says the fire went up into the attic where is spread throughout the building.
“It was hard to believe it was on fire,” says Jennie Stutzenburg. “Then it just took off all of a sudden.”
Goode says the pharmacist climbed into the attic to investigate, but the fire spread too quickly for him to put out alone. The pharmacist was treated for burns on his arms.
Investigators believe the fire was either caused by an electrical problem or by a burning cigarette left on the windowsill out front. The official cause will be release Thursday.
“All I could do was cry. That’s what I want to do now, “says Wanda Ellis. “I’m sad because our town. We don’t have another grocery store. We have so many older people that don’t have a way to go.”
In addition to being the only grocery store, Big Star is city’s largest employer. Now, residents will have to go to Morrilton, Conway, or Little Rock to do their shopping. However, those who used to fill their prescriptions at Big Star will be able to do so at another pharmacy in town
Goode estimates the store had about $500,000 worth of inventory inside at the time. He says the next step will be to meet with the insurance company.
“We’re worried about our community and our employees, but we’re fine. We’ll build back, we’ll get everything built back better that it was,” says Goode.
This isn’t the first time that Big Star burned down. The same thing happened 19 years ago.