Metro-East News

Owner wants to rebuild metro-east business destroyed by fire

A kitchen fire that quickly spread ended up destroying an East St. Louis convenience store Tuesday morning.

East St. Louis Fire Chief Jason Blackmon said two employees were inside Highway 15 Market at the corner of Missouri Avenue and North 15th Street when a fire started in the building’s kitchen. He said the two tried to put the fire out with an extinguisher but could not. The chief said the fire “got out of control.”

Firefighters were called at 7:30 a.m. At 8:30 a.m., flames were seen shooting out of the building’s roof and thick gray smoke had settled on the neighborhood. Part of Missouri Avenue was closed to traffic as firefighters battled the flames. The flames had subsided by 9 a.m.

The employees of the business were not injured as a result of the fire, Blackmon said.

Owner Hakim Najmeh said he has been operating the store for between six and seven years at 1501 Missouri Ave.

“I am going to try to see if I can rebuild, but I don’t know. I am in a fight with the insurance company. After 20 years of working and paying insurance, now the insurance (agent) claims we do not have insurance,” Najmeh said.

Illinois State Fire Marshals were on scene talking to the store owner and conducting an arson investigation.

East St. Louis firemen were still on scene at 11 a.m. Tuesday dealing with hot spots. Smoke could be seen coming from the roof.

Michael Dill, East St. Louis assistant fire chief, said the inside of the building was completed destroyed.

“It’s pretty devastating in there,” he said.

Dill said the fire crews “did a heck of a job in putting the fire.”

Kaitlyn Schwers: 618-239-2526, @kaitlynschwers

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