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Police Credited In Stopping Thriftway Fire

SANATOGA PA – Lower Pottsgrove police officers were credited Tuesday night (Sept. 8, 2015) for quickly extinguishing a trash can blaze that the township fire marshal said could have endangered the now-closed Sanatoga Thriftway supermarket on East High Street.

“The police department action might have saved that building,” Fire Marshal Lew Babel told members of the township Board of Commissioners, as he described officers’ actions in using dry powder extinguishers to put out the fire that occurred last week (Tuesday, Sept. 1 at about 5 p.m.) outside the store.

Babel said the fire is considered suspicious in nature.

He told commissioners that a burning ember of some kind, possibly a cigarette or other ignited item, was dropped into a 2-foot-by-2-foot partially full garbage container on the north side of the supermarket’s front doors. The contents subsequently caught fire, and burned so intensely that heat cracked windows above and behind the container.

When firefighters arrived, Babel added, he also learned that an emergency lock-box holding keys that enable first responders to enter the building had itself been changed. To get inside the grocery store lobby, which by then was filling with smoke, firefighters broke another window, he reported.

As it turns out, Babel said, keys to the lockbox were changed sometime after the store closed Aug. 12 but no one supplied new keys to fire officials. A new owner, Pottstown Village Holding LP, took possession of the property late last year; the DeLorenzo family company that operated the store for 18 years has filed for bankruptcy protection.

“I’ve got keys now,” Babel said triumphantly, as representatives of the new owner promptly supplied them once the fire was out. The windows have been boarded up.

Babel has asked Pottstown Area Rapid Transit to supply video footage of its route through the Sanatoga Village shopping center, past Thriftway, for the day and time of the fire. He hopes to identify potential suspects that may have been caught on a bus camera.

Additionally, township Manager Ed Wagner said he asked PART to discontinue its runs through the shopping center for now, because both of its major buildings – Thriftway, and the earlier-closed K-Mart department store – are now vacant.


Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ Sept. 8 meeting):

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