ST. PETERSBURG — Investigators have yet to determine what ignited the late-night fire that engulfed a St. Petersburg strip mall on Friday.
St. Petersburg Fire Rescue responded to a 911 caller Friday evening who described hearing an explosion inside the row of businesses, located on the corner of 49th Street South and First Avenue South at 119 49th St. S.
Firefighters responded to the scene shortly after 9 p.m. Despite them arriving within minutes of the call, heavy smoke and flames were already shooting from the row of storefronts, the department said.
The Florida State Fire Marshal’s office has only just begun its investigation into what caused the two-alarm fire. St. Petersburg Police said the structure is still considered to be a crime scene.
Crews raced to extinguish the blaze within about 20 minutes of arriving, Fire Rescue said. All of the businesses had closed for the evening, and no one was on the property to see how the fire ignited.
Investigators said the fire was mainly contained to the second-to-last store located on the right-hand side of the building. That portion of the building was so badly burned investigators on scene Friday night couldn’t tell what kind of business was operating there. A furniture store to the right of that unit and several others to the left sustained minor smoke damage during the blaze, firefighters said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the state Bureau of Fire, Arson and Explosives Investigations at 1-877-NO-ARSON.