The last customer was gone by the time the fire started, the place closed up for the rest of the holiday. No one was in the building. It took only a few minutes for someone to call 911. We live within easy walking distance of two fire stations, so by 6:15 everything was in full swing.
My daughter and I dashed out our back door, across the parking lot of the heating and cooling business, and into the mob of Elsmerites (Elsmerians?) lining the south side of the highway. The road was closed in both directions. I'd be willing to bet that most of the motorists trying to make their way east or west had no idea how to get around the obstruction.
By the time we had joined the crowd, flames were leaping out of the roof of the building. The man in the red shirt talking to the fire marshal had to be one of the owners. Firemen were throwing flaming loaves of bread out the back door.
The parking lot had been full all day, with patrons spilling out onto the highway, and other nearby parking lots. Many is the time I cursed them when the traffic of a Sunday morning or holiday eve made travel from my home to work difficult. I think I will miss the nuisance.
I walk my dog early in the morning, and I often am passing the parking lot as the baker arrives at 4 AM with a cheerful wave, and "Time to make the cookies."
Of course I speculate on the cause. The fire started immediately after closing, in the kitchen area. I have to believe it was carelessness in shutting down after a 12 hour day. There is no word from the fire marshal yet.
Now what is the baker, who will no longer be showing up at 4 am to make the cookies, or the sales staff who suddenly, on Christmas Eve, find themselves with no workplace, going to do? The bakery had survived turmoil for years, and I expect it to survive this. The owner said they will reopen on the same spot, but they don't yet know how extensive the damage is.
For the time being there are no Christmas lights across the highway from us, only a boarded up building.