Fire is last straw in bad week for family business
By BRADY DENNIS
"Are you okay?" asked Maggard's son Dale, leaning against a nearby car.
"I guess," Maggard said.
Investigators said they aren't sure what caused the fire that started about 1 p.m. and destroyed Sonny's Discount Appliance & TV Sales at 10651 U.S. 301. The fire shut down the highway for hours.
But this much is certain: Maggard has had a hellish week.
According to a sheriff's report, the business was burglarized sometime Friday night or early Saturday morning.
The thief or thieves got away with more than $100,000 in various appliances, TVs, radios and other equipment. Also stolen were an antique shotgun and a store delivery van valued at $50,000, the report stated.
Store workers were compiling an inventory of the stolen items Wednesday when the fire struck. Officials said it started near the warehouse area in the back of the building.
Julie Stotsky of Wesley Chapel was across the street renewing her driver's license. She said she saw employees trying to put out the fire.
"It started near the Dumpster," Stotsky said. "It was really small. A couple (of) employees were trying to put it out, but their hoses were just worthless. It was out of control by the time the firefighters arrived."
The fire quickly grew. It engulfed the warehouse and then moved on to the store's showroom and business offices.
It took until 2:30 p.m. for firefighters to get the blaze under control.
A total of 45 firefighters helped out. Dade City Fire Rescue, the Zephyrhills Fire Department, the Tri-Community Volunteer Fire Department and Pasco County Fire Rescue all sent units. Although the building still would have suffered serious damage, officials said it might not have been a total loss if they had had access to more water.
The building is in a nonhydrant area. The closest water supply was a few hundred yards away at Dade City Chevrolet.
When the water dried up there, firefighters had to truck in loads of water from near Clinton Avenue and U.S. 301, about a mile away.
"I don't know how much difference it would have made," Dade City Fire Rescue Capt. Joey Wubbena said. "I think we maybe could have held it to the warehouse because there's a fire wall there. But we just ran low on water.
"It's not any different than a soldier without bullets. We need water."
County records show that the building, constructed in 1980, was valued at $390,489.
When asked how much the inventory of furniture, appliances and mattresses inside was worth, Maggard just shook his head and said, "You don't even want to know."
Just after 1:30 p.m., a fire engine's horn blared three times, signaling firefighters to evacuate the building. It wasn't long before most of the building's aluminum roof had collapsed.
Because all the flammable goods inside kept fueling the fire, Wubbena said firefighters would work late into the night extinguishing the blaze. He said the job could last until midnight.
Outside, a group of Sonny's employees looked on, shaking their heads.
"It's just unbelievable," said Donna Love. "Sonny has worked his whole life to build this business."
Maggard stood off to one side near his two sons, his eyes glued to the scene.
"I've had about all of this I can take," he said.
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