SOUTHINGTON - A fire that spread rapidly Sunday night gutted Tops Marketplace, a beloved, family-owned grocery store.
There is no hope of salvaging the building.
“It’s coming down,” Battalion Chief Glenn Dube of the Southington Fire Department said Monday morning, standing next to the skeleton of a business that has been in Southington since 1951.
“I hope they rebuild,” he said.
Firefighters were called to the store, at 887 Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike, around 7:30 p.m. It had been occupied by employees and shoppers getting last-minute items before the snowstorm hit, but was evacuated before firefighters arrived, and no injuries were reported.
Firefighters encountered heavy flames in the rear of the building and through the roof. Within half an hour of the fire’s being reported, the roof collapsed, complicating matters even more, said Dube. After the collapse, firefighters were unable to get to the burning materials underneath.
“It spread extremely quickly,” Dube said.
Southington firefighters used two ladder trucks to try to control the flames, and were joined by a ladder truck from Meriden, called in for mutual aid. They, along with several firefighters wielding hoses on the ground, battled the fire for nearly five hours, finally getting it under control around midnight.
“It was an extremely stubborn fire,” Dube said.
“They rode things out for the whole storm,” he said, adding that employees from the McDonald’s restaurant across the street were nice enough to allow firefighters inside to get out of the elements throughout the night.
Both the local fire marshal and the Office of the State Fire Marshal are investigating the blaze.
According to Dube, a number of factors likely contributed to the fire’s rapid spread. He said the building has undergone renovations since it was built, which left spaces that flames feed on. He also said synthetic materials used more now in construction burn faster than traditional materials. Also, many of the plastic materials used in food packaging burn rapidly, Dube continued.
Standing in soot, staring at the now unrecognizable inside of Tops Marketplace, Michael Giannini wondered Monday morning what would become of the place where he has worked for the past 3 1/2 years.
“Not sure yet,” he said when asked about the status of his job and whether the grocery store would be rebuilt.
“I feel bad about the owners at the moment,” Giannini said, adding that Tops Marketplace is a good place to work.
Giannini was not working Sunday night, but he said his sister was. She was not in the building when the fire broke out and watched from the outside.
“It was a fire in the back and then it just engulfed,” Giannini said, recounting his conversation with his sister after hearing about the fire.
Dube had similar things to say about the ownership of Tops.
According to town records, the building is owned by John Salerno.
“I know the family that owns it is very active in charities and donating to things around town,” Dube said.
“There aren’t many family-owned grocery stores left,” he continued. “It’s a big loss for the town.”
Justin Muszynski can be reached at 860-973-1809 or firstname.lastname@example.org.