Massive fire breaks out at strip center in SW Houston


The fire broke out at the strip center near Fondren and Harwin. It began a few minutes before 5am and was officially tapped out around 7:30am.

Firefighters were still out late Wednesday afternoon putting out any hot spots in the strip mall; traffic finally was moving along Fondren after the street was shut down for hours earlier in the day.

Now, investigators are waiting to get inside the warehouse and have a look around.

In the early morning hours, flames destroyed the M Trading Wholesale warehouse near the corner of Fondren and Harwin.

"You had things like chemicals, whether it was cleaning chemicals or hair supplies, in that particular structure," Houston Fire Department spokesman Pat Trahan said.

The warehouse owners stored the chemicals to sell to dollar and discount stores. Instead, those chemicals fueled a fire on Wednesday that collapsed the roof, damaged a hair salon next door and threatened other neighboring businesses as well.

Fondren was shut down from Harwin to the Westpark Tollway until this afternoon.

A few doors down at Master Auto Body and Upholstery, manager Victor Medrano kept a close eye on the fire.

"I get a phone call at six in the morning, and they say you know the place is on fire," Medrano said. "I get up, I turn on the news, and luckily it wasn't our shop, and it was a building next to us."

That was too close for Medrano. The shop he manages paints a lot of high end cars -- like the Cadillac Escalade that Eyewitness News spotted being polished just down the alley from the backhoe that was fighting the fire.

"We have all kind of flammable chemicals in the shop, and we have about 40 cars stored inside the shop," he said.

The owner of the warehouse, who didn't want to go on camera, told Eyewitness News no one was inside at the time, but he was alerted to the fire by a sensor in the warehouse.

Arson investigators aren't able to get inside until the flames are completely out and the warehouse, stabilized.

But say they don't think the fire was suspicious.

"Well we can't say one way or another because we haven't conducted our investigation, but at this point, no, we've not gotten any indication that there's some wrongdoing by anyone," HFD Arson Chief Gabe Cortez said.

The wholesale warehouse had been at its location for the past 20 years. The owner says he did have insurance.
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