Blaze Hits Wheatley Shopping Center

An aerial photo captures the scene as firefighters battle the blaze that has burned through the roof. (Photo provided by V.I. Fire Services Director Daryl. A. George Sr.)
An aerial photo captures the scene as firefighters battle the blaze that has burned through the roof. (Photo provided by V.I. Fire Service Director Daryl George Sr.)
Flames engulf the bridal shop at the Wheatley Center. (Reader submitted photo)
Flames engulf the bridal shop at Wheatley Center. (Reader submitted photo)

A major fire devoured three stores and an empty bay on the eastern side of lower Wheatley Shopping Center on Wednesday.

The blaze began shortly after 5 p.m. and flames were pouring out of Beautiful Beginnings Bridal Gallery at dusk on Wednesday.

The flames defied continued attempts to put them out. At about 9 p.m. a foam spray truck, was sent from the airport.

An informed source said at one point the fire was under control but reignited. Fire Service Director Daryl George Sr. confirmed that, saying in a text the fire reignited when it jumped to another room. “There was no firewall,” he said.

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video available on Facebook showed intense flames consuming the bridal shop and another store at the eastern end of the shopping center. Everything from Doctor’s Choice Pharmacy to the west was spared, including Fruit Bowl.

As of 10:10 p.m. the fire was still smoking.

“There’s a hair and nail place in there,” George said, and the many chemical products contributed to the difficulty putting it out and also caused danger to a couple of the firemen who were “on oxygen,” he said.

“Tomorrow we will have investigators going in to see what started the fire,” which began in the bridal shop.

In all, four bays of the shopping center were damaged.

Fruit Bowl manager David Goldberg, reached in Florida, said personnel at the grocery store were not immediately aware of the fire when it started because Fruit Bowl is in a separate building.

Details on the fire and the number of firefighters called in to combat it were sparse, because Fire Service was busy trying to put it out.

The V.I. Water and Power Authority temporarily deenergized Feeder 7B around the Wheatley Center to allow fire personnel to safely move apparatus in and around the fire scene.

Feeder 7B covers the area from Estate Thomas, Raphune Hill, a portion of Rhymer Highway, Donoe, Wintberg and Mandahl.

George said other than a couple of firemen on oxygen, no one was injured.

Flames engulf the bridal shop at the Wheatley Center. (Reader submitted photo)
Flames engulf the bridal shop at Wheatley Center. (Reader submitted photo)
Flames engulf the bridal shop at the Wheatley Center. (Reader submitted photo)
The nozzle of the airport’s foam truck, left, sprays retardant on the flames. (Reader submitted photo)
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