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Fire razes Route 9 strip mall in Hadley: several businesses destroyed



Last modified: Monday, October 28, 2013
HADLEY — A stubborn fire that lit up the night sky and sent debris and sparks flying high into the air Sunday night destroyed a Route 9 strip mall housing more than a dozen businesses while 60 firefighters from 10 departments tried mightily to put out the four-alarm blaze.

* Today Route 9 from Bay Road to the Hampshire Mall is closed to through traffic with the section of Route 9 from East to Spruce streets totally closed, according to Hadley police. It is anticipated that Route 9 will be entirely open by around 2 p.m.

The fire was reported around 7:41 p.m., and while it appeared to begin as a small fire, it spread rapidly as firefighters using aerial ladder trucks and large hoses doused it from all angles, to no avail.

Northampton Deputy Chief Christopher Norris said the fire is under investigation by state police, the state fire marshal’s office, Hadley police and Hadley fire departments.

Interviewed at the scene of the fire late Sunday night, Norris said the building housed a mix of about 15 businesses and residential units. He said firefighters believe the blaze started somewhere near the middle of the strip, though he could not say precisely where — nor did fire authorities have any information yet about the cause of the fire. He could not say whether the fire was in any way suspicious.

As of around 10:30 p.m., as the blaze continued to rage and much of the complex had been reduced to a shell, Norris said no firefighters had been injured on the job.

Spreading flames

Around 8 p.m. Sunday, the International Food Market, a shop in the middle of the line of varied businesses at 206 Russell St., was fully ablaze, with fire coming through the roof, billowing high into the sky and blowing out the windows while firefighters worked to quell the flames.

Clusters of onlookers stood in fields across Route 9 watching as the blaze made its way steadily along the line of businesses, within two hours destroying Banh Mi Saigon restaurant, Greggory’s Pastry Shop, a tattoo parlor, Casablanca Halal Market and College Pro Computer. Those buildings face Route 9 along Hadley’s main commercial district.

Meanwhile, the fire also spread to the back of the complex, where Mi Tierra Restaurant, a laundromat and a karate school are housed, soon destroying each of those establishments as well.

Onlooker Leon Szymborn, who owns Leon’s Auto Sales at 64 East St. in Hadley, was watching the building’s destruction from a field behind the complex, after hearing the commotion from his nearby home. He said he owns the building next to the complex (formerly Stan’s vegetable stand.)

“I said I better check what’s going on, I’ve got cars in there,” Szymborn said. He said when he arrived around 8 p.m., Mi Tierra was dark and smoky but there appeared to be no fire inside.

“We watched it come here,” he said.

Linda Hannum, a Hadley resident who said she could see the fire from her home two miles away, was there taking pictures of the blaze.

She said as she watched the restaurant she saw a small glow appear inside, and then things started falling from the ceiling as they caught fire one by one.

“You could see the tables and chairs were on fire,” she said. Since she eats there regularly, she knows the tables are wooden and the chairs rattan.

The fire quickly destroyed the restaurant, catching the curtains, and then one after the other the windows popped with great concussive blasts.

“The power of the flame is relentless and unforgiving and it’s not discerning,” said Hannum, who owns Salon Herdis in Northampton.

Hannum said she felt great sympathy for the family who owns and operates the restaurant.

“To sit there and watch your livelihood literally go up in flames,” she said.

The fire became so intense at points that firefighters had to move their vehicles farther away, and horns blared, a signal that firefighters inside must come out immediately.

As the blaze flared and spread, pieces of roofing peeled up and dark, choking smoke filled the air, while blasts could be heard from inside above the din of the hoses.

At points firefighters peeled off siding to spray the wood behind with their hoses, and broke holes in walls that appeared ready to fall to the ground so they could spray power hoses inside to a blaze that did not want to be put out.

Around 9:20 p.m. a call went out for more departments to come in to be on standby in case they were needed.

Firefighters from Northampton, Amherst, Sunderland, Hatfield, Easthampton, South Hadley, Pelham and Holyoke were among those joining Hadley at the scene.



* Due to misinformation provided by the MA Department of Transportation, the original story misidentified what portion of Route 9 is closed.