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SFFR: Four Fires Intentionally Set Inside Co-op

January 21, 2014, 5:40 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

SFFR: Four Fires Intentionally Set Inside Co-op

Authorities say the fire that burned the Sioux Falls Co-op Natural Foods store was no accident.

Flames gutted the specialty grocer and now fire investigators are calling it arson.   

The fire was first reported by a Sioux Falls Police officer who was driving by the store around 3:30 a.m. early Sunday morning.

It torched the inventory and has left general manager Molly Langley searching for answers.

"It's one of those great mysteries of life. Nobody deserves what just happened to us. It is a terrible, terrible loss to all of our members," Langley said.

The fire at the Co-op Natural Foods store destroyed everything inside. It was set intentionally by someone who broke in early Sunday morning and stole some cash.

"And then they set the place on fire," Langley said.

Langley says she has already been questioned by police about the incident and she has no reason to believe anyone with the store is to blame. She says it happened at a time when the health-food business was growing.

"Business has never been better and we've been on a roll. We just put in new counters, so it wasn't us. So, it's especially painful when we reach this wonderful level of business," Langley said.

Fire officials say they found four different spots in the store where the fire was started but most the damage came in the aisle with the chips where the oily snacks ignited.

"The fires really didn't spread very far from their origin that's why it was easy to discern it's four areas of origin and not one (area) that had just spread," Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Mike Top said.

And as the clean up process begins, Langley says the store is committed to resurrecting the co-op that suddenly burned.

"We owe it to our community and our members and our vendors to get busy with solving the problem rather than spending a lot of time wallowing in self pity," Langley said.

Sioux Falls Police are now handling the arson investigation; they are encouraging anyone with information to call Crimestoppers.

Co-op Natural Foods is currently looking for a temporary location while the store is cleaned out because while all the food may have been destroyed, there was no structural damage to the building itself.

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