Fire, smoke damage Hitchcock's

Firefighters rest outside the Hitchcock's Foodway after a fire forced the store to be evacuated Wednesday.

ROB C. WITZEL/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 29, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 29, 2004 at 12:14 a.m.
WILLISTON - A Wednesday morning fire shut down the Hitchcock's Foodway grocery store on U.S. 27 and the adjoining Dollar General store.
The fire was reported by store employees at 9 a.m. after it appeared to break out in an area where paper towels were being stored above frozen food cases just inside the front door.
"Our employees used the extinguishers available inside the store to try to contain it," said Hitchcock's President Alan Hitchcock. One employee, whose name was not released, was briefly treated for smoke inhalation but was not seriously injured, Hitchcock said.
Assistant Williston Volunteer Fire Department Chief Shawn Holcomb said that although smoked filled the store, damage from flames was contained to the walls, ceiling and attic insulation toward the front of the store. Volunteer firefighters from Williston, Bronson and Morriston were able to bring the fire under control within minutes of arriving on the scene. Firefighters said it appeared an electrical problem was the likely cause of the fire.
Employees of the Dollar General store - which shares a wall with the grocery store - said some smoke drifted into their store but there was no significant damage.
Dollar General was able to re-open within a few hours.
Hitchcock's is expected to remain closed for a few weeks to give insurance adjusters time to assess the losses and give employees time to remove and replace smoke damaged groceries and fixtures. A dollar estimate of the loss was not available Wednesday evening, although Hitchcock said the store and its contents were insured.
The 18,000-square-foot store was built in the mid-1970s and joined Hitchcock's 12-store chain in 1998. It employs approximately 25 people.
Wednesday's fire was the first ever reported in the company's 58-year history, Hitchcock said.
"Everybody is fine, which is most important. Now there is a lot of uncertainty but nobody is in a panic," Hitchcock said. "This is something that has not happened to us before and certainly not something you expect when you get a phone call at 9 in the morning. It's the kind of call you think you might get at night."
Karen Voyles can be reached at (352) 486-5058 or

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