PARK MANOR — A South Side businessman is claiming that his convenience store was burned down by an arsonist, and while investigators did not confirm arson, an official did say the blaze was "started by a human act."
"I want them put under the jail! What that person did was reckless and could have killed someone," said Moin Ahmed, who owned the Food Basket, a convenience store at 401 E. 75th St. that was destroyed by fire on March 3.
Ahmed said he was "hearing from people on the street that my store was purposely burned down," but "for what reason I do not know."
Across the street, a Jan. 17 fire at 375 E. 75th St. consumed a Dollar & Up and a Cricket Wireless store.
Both cases were turned over to Chicago Police Bomb and Arson investigators, said Larry Langford, a Chicago Fire Department spokesman.
Both fires "were started by a human act," said Langford, "but we cannot determine if that is arson. That is up to the police to find out."
Langford said that the Fire Department deals with the science of where fires start and their cause, and the Police Department "deals with what may have been behind that human act, accident or arson."
Officer Thomas Sweeney, a Chicago police spokesman, said the Jan. 17 fire is under investigation, but as of Tuesday it had not received paperwork from the Fire Department for the March 3 fire.
Ahmed said his convenience store had been burglarized 10 times since October and that "All the time and money I put into fixing up that store for the community was a waste of time."
Ahmed has another convenience store down the street, at 358 E. 75th St., where he said he has not had any problems, "but I worry if someone will try to burn down" that one.
"The way it looks, I doubt if I will be reopening the store" that burned, he said.
According to the Cook County Treasurer's Office, Cottage Grove Terrace LLC owns the building at 375 E. 75th St. that housed the dollar store and the wireless shop. Representatives for the company could not be reached for comment.
Local business owners said they are not worried about being the next casualty of a fire.
"There are more police patrolling the area, and we have cameras in our business," said Tracey Starling, whose family owns a Harold's Chicken Shack at 407 E. 75th St. "It's business as usual with us."
Imad Hafz, who owns a convenience store at 410 E. 75th St., said he heard about corner stores being set on fire intentionally.
"I just hope whoever did it does not try to burn my store down. All they are doing is destroying the neighborhood," said Hafz.
Residents said the intersection of 75th Street and King Drive now sticks out like a sore thumb with two burned-out buildings.
Tawana Cook, who lives next door to the convenience store in the 7500 block of South King Drive, said she does not like what she sees every morning.
"First, I had to look at this ugly site filled with burned debris, and now I have to live next to a burned-up building," Cook said.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), whose ward includes the buildings, did not return calls seeking comment.