SCRANTON - A Navy recruiter helped extinguish some of the flames behind Gerrity‚??s Supermarket in the Keyser Oak Center after the fire broke out just after 6:30 p.m. Monday evening, Feb. 13.
Carlos Martinez, of Scranton, was driving north on the North Scranton Expressway when he spotted the blaze outside the supermarket.
‚??Coming down the expressway, you couldn‚??t miss it. Unmistakable,‚?Ě Martinez said. ‚??A big fire like that draws your attention. It was obviously not a controlled burn, and it was touching the building.
‚??I was actually on the phone with my wife. I said, ‚??Hey, there‚??s a fire. I‚??ve got to go. I‚??ll call you back.‚??‚?Ě
Martinez then called 911, parked in the Gerrity‚??s lot, and went to the back of the store to help workers use about three fire extinguishers on the base of the fire.
‚??We got it put out pretty much before the fire department got here - the base of it - but the top of the building we couldn‚??t get... They got here so fast. Before we got the base out, they were already pulling up.‚?Ě
Martinez didn‚??t think twice about jumping in to help.
‚??In the Navy, we train for these kinds of situations. When they come up, you just deal with them,‚?Ě he said.
Crews from the Scranton Fire Department quickly doused the remains of the fire that damaged a produce cooler.
Scranton Deputy Fire Chief Al Lucas said flames did more damage outside the building as it destroyed pallets and milk crates.
Covington Township resident Betty Jones, the night deli manager, said workers inside were largely unaware of the fire.
‚??Some people came in and said they saw fire in the back of the building,‚?Ě Jones said. ‚??It was outside. When we got out, someone went in to check the produce cooler and it was just getting smoky in there.‚?Ě
Scranton resident and Gerrity‚??s kitchen employee Michael Kinney said there was no smoke in the store when employees were told to leave.
Police instructed employee Gillyan Gowarty to make an announcement that the store was being evacuated. After making two announcements, Gowarty said she went through the aisles to encourage any patrons who remained to leave the store.
Scranton Fire Chief Tom Davis said Tuesday morning that the cause of the fire was still under investigation.
Gerrity‚??s co-owner Joe Fasula said the store was given a ‚??clean bill of health‚?Ě from city inspectors about two hours after the fire occurred. The store is still assessing damage to the produce cooler, but Fasula said that it will have ‚??no impact on operations.‚?Ě The store receives shipments of fresh produce almost daily, according to Fasula.
Gerrity‚??s is offering a reward for information leading to determining the cause of Monday‚??s fire, but Fasula did not have specific details on Tuesday morning.