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Fire destroys businesses

An early-morning fire Friday destroyed two commercial buildingsnear the intersection of Highway 51 and Highway 550 and left twopeople hospitalized with burns to their feet, authorities said.

Another person was treated for minor injuries and a firefighterwas treated for smoke inhalation.

The fire was reported at 3:40 a.m. at the strip of businesses onHighway 51.

“When we pulled up, the east end of that building was totallyinvolved,” said Brookhaven Fire Capt. Bob Watts.

Businesses in the building included Brookhaven ChiropracticClinic, Thrift Home Care, Associated Radiologists, OrthopedicsClinic of Southwest Mississippi and AAA Check Cashing Service. AChristian bookstore had not reopened following an earlier fire atthe building.

Watts said three vehicles in the parking lot were also afire andthe building occupied by Ben’s Sporting Goods was also inflames.

“It was a total loss,” Watts said about the buildings.

Three people were renting apartments over the sporting goodsbusiness. They were identified as John Lowe, Mitchell Brooks Smithand Kara McCurley, all 20.

“Our guys had to bust windows to wake them up and get them outof there,” said Brookhaven Police Chief Arlustra “Pap”Henderson.

Henderson said Smith and McCurley were admitted to King’sDaughters Medical Center with third degree burns on their feet as aresult of hot asphalt.

Smith and McCurley were listed in stable condition this morning,said JoAnna Sproles, KDMC marketing director. She said Lowe wastreated and released.

Also, Fire Capt. Marty Beeson was treated for smoke inhalation.Cartwright said he was recovering well.

Fire officials believe the vehicles helped the fire spread fromone building to the other, but it is unclear where the fireoriginated.

“We really haven’t been able to pinpoint that,” said Chief PaulCartwright, adding that the state fire marshal has been contactedto begin an investigation into the cause of the blaze.

Firefighters’ efforts last night were made more dangerousbecause of sporting goods store ammunition that was discharging inthe fire. Henderson estimated 1,000 rounds were in the store.

“It was a lot of bullets going off,” Henderson said.

The buildings were owned by Bob Jordan. He surveyed the damagethis morning and said his future plans for the area areuncertain.

“I’m just devastated,” Jordan said.

Firefighters were putting out some hot spots around 8 a.m.,Cartwright said. He and Henderson said they appreciated countyvolunteer firefighters who assisted in putting out the fire, whichwas contained around 5 a.m.

Henderson said Highways 51 and 550 and Drury Lane were closedwhile firefighters battled the blaze. Highway 51 and Drury Lanewere reopened around 5:50 a.m. while Highway 550 was reopened atapproximately 8:45 a.m., the chief said.

The Rev. Phillip Sterling, who lives on nearby Hartman Street,said everything was afire when he went to the scene last night. Hesaid it appeared the fire may have started in the strip mallbuilding, but he could not be positive.

“It was some kind of fire,” Sterling said.

Sterling commended firefighters for their bravery in battlingthe fire as bullets “popped” around them and for their efforts inkeeping the fire from spreading to a nearby car lot and surroundinghomes.

“They did a great job keeping the fire contained and not lettingit spread to the homes,” Sterling said.