An early-morning three-alarm fire destroyed one Laurel store and heavily damaged two others yesterday, according to Prince George's County fire officials, who put the monetary loss at $1.5 million.
Department spokesman Tony DeStefano said the fire broke out about 1 a.m. at the Laurel Plaza Shopping Center in the 9600 block of Fort Meade Road. A sporting goods store, Bob Windsor's Team Warehouse, was destroyed, and the blaze heavily damaged the Spic and Span Store and The Comm Center, a computer store, DeStefano said. Other stores in the small shopping plaza received some smoke and water damage.
It took an hour to control the fire, said DeStefano, who added that two firefighters received minor injuries.
Fire investigators did not know what caused the fire or where it began. Most of the day was spent removing the caved-in roof and walls, making the structure safe enough for investigators to go inside.
There are about 12 stores in the center, on Rte. 198 near the Anne Arundel County line. Only a handful were open yesterday.
Pat Wilkinson, an assistant manager of Drug Fair, said the store had some minor smoke damage, but the biggest loss was the supply of refrigerated milk that had to be thrown away because the electricity was turned off for several hours. Wilkinson said the shopping center was built in the mid-1960s and just a few days ago, workers completed an extensive remodeling job. "It's a shame," she said. "It was really looking good."
Business fared well at Bob Windsor's All Pro Sports retail store. However, the Team Warehouse, another store owned by Windsor, a former New England Patriots football player, on the other side of the center was destroyed, according to Paul Russell, an employe. The Warehouse is an outlet for team uniforms and off-season stock also was stored there, Russell said.
The fire did not cause problems for Laurel Plaza Liquors, which seemed to be doing a brisk business yesterday, "probably 'cause of all the tourists," said salesman Dale Taweel. Taweel said he first learned of the fire when he arrived at work but was told the blaze was spectacular. "They said you could see it from the center of Laurel," he said.