MELVINDALE, Mich. (WJBK) - Firefighters have been on the scene of a fire at a beloved Melvindale grocery store since around 9 p.m. on the Fourth of July.
"I've seen it on the news this morning but I had to see for myself, and i'm just crying inside. I'm shaking; I'm literally shaking. I'm devastated. That's the only word I can say," says Trudy Stout.
Hours after the fire first began here at the Oakwood Food Center, firefighters were still trying to put it out and concerned customers were still trying to understand how something like this could have happened.
For many of the people who live at the senior housing complex across the street, this was more than a grocery store. It was the only option for those in wheelchairs, and its owners and workers became part of their extended family.
"This is the life's blood of the building right here. A lot of these people can't walk or have other problems. Like I was saying, these people were our friends. They always treated us fairly. Just a nice bunch of people. It's a tragedy," says Don Gregoire, who lives nearby.
When firefighters got to the 3600 block of Oakwood Boulevard around 9 o'clock on Wednesday night, they could see heavy flames coming from the rear of the building.
Heavy smoke forced officers to go door-to -oor and temporarily evacuate those behind the business.
We are told a gas leak in the area at one point fueled the fire and what was inside the store itself made it hard to get to the flames. All of that combined with the summer heat took its toll.
"We had one guy that had to go to the hospital but he's doing just fine. He had a little heat exhaustion just because it was so brutally hot when we first showed up. It zaps it out of you. Unfortunately a couple of nice guys lost their business but no one was hurt," says Dearborn Fire Capt. Ken Karustis.
We heard various adjectives used to describe those connected to the family-run store that's been a community staple here since 2005.
Over and over we were told the more than 20 people employeed at the Oakwood Food Center were kind, considerate and caring, and the location was convenient. Now it's gone, burned beyond repair. The void is already noticeable.
"Keep us in your prayers because this is gonna be a loss for a lot of people. Hopefully we can move forward and they will rebuild, but, for now, keep us in your prayers," Stout says.
The fire appears to have started in the back of the business beacuse when firefighters arrived, that's where most of the flames were. Authorities are working to determine what started the fire.