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Fire Spreads Through Row Of Storefronts On Long Island

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WILLISTON PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Business owners are vowing to rebuild after a five-alarm fire ripped through a row of Long Island storefronts early Thursday morning.

The fire broke out at 2:45 a.m. at 600 Willis Avenue in the village of Williston Park.

Fire officials said the blaze started in a shoe store and then quickly spread, CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang reported.

When firefighters arrived at the scene, Asst. Chief Fire Marshal Michael Uttaro said, “The fire was already blowing out the front of the store.”

Firefighters on the scene of a 5-alarm blaze in Williston Park, NY on July 24, 2014. (credit: Weijia Jiang/CBS 2)

Firefighters on the scene of a 5-alarm blaze in Williston Park, NY on July 24, 2014. (credit: Weijia Jiang/CBS 2)

The fire was contained around 4:25 a.m. Police said in all, 13 fire departments responded.

“It’s devastating to our business community, but thanks to our fire department, the Williston Park Fire Department and surrounding departments, they were very effective in controlling the fire and prevent it from spreading further damage,” said Mayor Paul Ehrbar.

The fire spread through at least six storefronts in the heart of the village’s business district.

“Unfortunately in this type of building, it’s a common cock loft and a common basement so if you get in one, it’s going to spread to another,” said Williston Fire Chief Gary Smithing.

Crews had to demolish walls to put out any hot spots.

According to CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff, no injuries were reported and the fire is not considered suspicious.

Several of the business owners are devastated, but determined to rebuild.

“This is his life,” said Christen Pellegrini, whose husband owns a bar that was destroyed in the blaze. “He loved this place very much, and his partner as well. They put a lot into this, it was a second home, so it’s devastating to see.”

Business owner Tony Zuo said, “It’s a nightmare,” and doesn’t know how he will provide for his family since his dry cleaning store is gone.

The Doughtys, whose plumbing shop was ruined, have the same concerns.

“We all know everybody; to see it go down is horrible, but nobody got hurt, so thank God for that” said Marilyn Doughty.

“They’re mom-and-pop stores, not major conglomerates, so it’s a loss not only to the individuals, but to the entire village,” Ehrbar told Gusoff.

Ehrbar estimates it will take at least six months to rebuild the row of stores.

“We have our building inspector here talking to the owners, talking to the residents,” Ehrbar said. “We’ll do whatever we can to help them get back on their feet.”

“Salons surrounding us offered space that we can use until we rebuild. It’s just been overwhelming,” salon owner Karen Cunningham told Gusoff.

The fire chief said a small gas explosion may have sparked the flames, but the official cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)