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Fireworks suspected as cause of Macklind Avenue Deli blaze

ST. LOUIS – A Southampton neighborhood landmark was destroyed in an overnight fire and investigators suspect fireworks as the possible cause.

St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said commercial-grade fireworks were exploding in the skies where the fire began at the Macklind Avenue Deli. He reminded folks that using fireworks in the city is illegal, but the fact that commercial grade fireworks were being used worried him.

People who lived in the area spent the day driving by the deli to take a look at what happened. The sight was upsetting to many folks.

“It’s definitely heartbreaking, very heartbreaking,” said Ann Murphy, who lives nearby.

The fire broke out in the 40-year-old building around 1 a.m. Thursday. Flames leaped into the night air. It was so ferocious, firefighters had to change their plan of attack.

“We initially started off with a very aggressive interior attack, but the fire developed very rapidly,” said Fire Captain Garon Mosby. “We had a large amount of fire on arrival, but it grew exponentially throughout the entire attack.”

Two St. Louis firefighters were injured, one by falling debris. He was taken to the hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. The other was treated on the scene after he was overcome by heat.

In their defensive position, crews soaked the building with lots of water from outside. They were able to protect nearby homes and Clementine’s Ice Cream, which is under construction.

Despite some smoke and water damage, Clementine’s owner, Tamara Keefe, still hopes to open next month thanks to firefighters.

“They were super engaged and they definitely were trying to protect our investment and our building as well,” she said.

After bringing the fire under control, crews returned to the scene after it rekindled. It was upsetting for neighbors to watch a local favorite destroyed by flames.

“I’ve been coming up here all the time. They’ve got good sandwiches and it’s really sad to see what happened to it,” said Michael Venturella, a deli customer.

Gerald Dunne, one of the deli’s owners, said he’s optimistic about returning.

“We talked to the owner of the building this morning he intends to rebuild and reopen as soon as possible,” he said.

That will not only be good news for neighbors, but also for the dozen people who work here.