Firefighter injured in strip mall fire

April 29, 2011 3:54:21 PM PDT
A firefighter is recovering this evening after he was hurt while fighting a large fire at a strip center on the west side at Highway 6 and Clay.

Arson investigators say this fire was an accident and that it started at the base of the outside support column.

Eyewitnesses shot video of the early stages of the fire and sent it to iWitness news, which now is powered by YouTube. It showed flames coming from the roof of what was a Chinese restaurant, but that restaurant had not yet opened for business. Witnesses say they first saw smoke and flames coming from a support column outside their shops.

"It was just on fire, you know, and I ran inside to grab some water to put it out and it went out. And we waited for a minute and it was still hot and all of a sudden we saw smoke coming out the top," said Brian Manahan, barber shop employee.

Firefighters say discarded smoking materials at the base of the column started the blaze.

"Our investigation indicates the fire started at the base of an exterior awning," said Lieutenant Chad Shaw with the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office. "The fire was accidental in nature and was caused by discarded smoking materials."

Witnesses say when the fire hit the roof of the shopping center, little could be done to stop it. Hakim Kalowala's sign shop is one of at least five businesses damaged or destroyed in the blaze.

"I am the guy who first called called 911 and the fire department; by the time everybody come, this thing just keep going on," said Kalowala.

The Cy-Fair Fire Department and the Houston Fire Department worked together to bring the big blaze under control. One Cy-Fair firefighter suffered a broken leg when the building's roof collapsed on him. He was conscious and talking as he was taken to an area hospital. We're told he is expected to recover from his injuries.

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