PHOENIX — Spencer McClure had two thoughts when he saw smoke starting to fill the back of a supermarket where he was shopping Wednesday evening.
He "was trying not to panic" as he saw the smoke around him in the Safeway store, McClure told television station ABC15 (KNXV ). "At the same time I was thinking, 'I think something really bad is about to happen,' " he said.
On Thursday, the Phoenix Fire Department said the blaze that gutted the store might have stemmed from a rooftop accumulation of water from rainstorms. The fire sent flames high above the building after it was evacuated when the fire was first reported.
Investigators were looking into the possibility that a partial roof collapse in the back of the store broke a gas line and damaged the main electrical box, starting the fire that destroyed the store Wednesday evening, said fire Capt. Rob McDade, a department spokesman.
There may have been an accumulation of water on the store's flat roof from a microburst that dropped heavy rain in the area shortly before the fire as well as from previous storms this week, McDade said.
No injuries were reported, but firefighters who entered the store in west-central Phoenix to fight the fire reported in the back room had to quickly retreat when more of the roof collapsed, some of it on the firefighters, McDade said.
Meanwhile, another crew made sure everybody else was out of the building, he said.
The captain of the crew that had been fighting the fire reported hearing a whoosh of flames as the firefighters left the building, McDade said. "We're very lucky that none of our members were injured and lucky that everybody made it out safely," he said.
Dozens of Phoenix and Glendale firefighters, some shooting water from atop extended ladders, battled the blaze for hours after it broke out around 6 p.m. A thick plume of smoke from the fire was visible from many miles away.