Today’s news:

Norwood blasted again by fire

Norwood has suffered a blaze on another busy corridor. If the fires continue, the neighborhood stands to lose its best stores and businesses.

The five-alarm inferno began at around 4:30 a.m. on Monday, December 21 and was under control by 9:22 a.m. Nearly 200 firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze; two sustained minor injuries, a Fire Department spokesman said.

The fire damaged at least three businesses on E. 204th Street between Bainbridge and Perry avenues: Foodtown supermarket, American Diner and Bainbridge Dental, the spokesman said. The cause of the conflagration is yet unknown.

It was the second fire in two months on a Norwood business strip. An early morning five-alarm blaze damaged 17 businesses less than a block away, at Bainbridge Avenue and E. 204th Street, on Halloween.

One of those businesses, Bainbridge Bakery, suffered a fire in April and was set to reopen on Monday, November 2. The basement of Norwood’s Lutheran Church of the Epiphany burned a year ago January.

Update: Monday 12:30pm

In addition to Foodtown, American Diner and Bainbridge Dental, McKeon Funeral Home and a bank were damaged by smoke and water, Community Board 7 district manager Fernando Tirado said. So were businesses near the corner of E. 204th Street and Bainbridge Avenue, he added.

“This is horrible,” Tirado said. “The Foodtown was really the only supermarket in the neighborhood.”

The Foodtown maintained some 40 employees, who have been reassigned to other supermarkets in the chain, the district manager said. It underwent a complete renovation during the summer and earned applause from Norwood residents when it reopened.

“Seniors on Webster Avenue and throughout south Norwood and north Bedford Park used [the Foodtown],” Tirado said.

Agents from the city Department of Small Business Services were on the scene Monday morning to help business owners and displaced employees. CB7 and SBS will host a recovery meeting soon, Tirado said.

Word on the street is that Monday’s fire and the Halloween blaze are connected but the Fire Department has yet to issue its report on the latter, Tirado said.

“Too early to speculate,” he said. “Most of that is rumor. But when you look at three fires on the same block in less than a year, people will jump to conclusions.”

Update: Monday 4:30pm

When Nick Napolitano woke to the sound of helicopters and sirens on Monday, he rushed to a window. The Norwood resident glimpsed plumes of black smoke and emergency personnel outside his building.

Napolitano shops at the Foodtown weekly. He called the latest blaze "a kick in the gut" for Norwood residents who lost a fish market and grocery stores on Halloween – businesses that "make a neighborhood a neighborhood," he said.

Napolitano has no faith in rumors that Norwood has been hit by arson or insurance fraud but thinks that Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., the city Department of Buildings and the Fire Department should encourage Norwood property owners to safeguard older buildings prone to fire, he said.

Napolitano hopes the city will motivate property owners to rebuild sooner rather than later. Until then, property owners need to secure and maintain the damaged sites, he said. A simple plywood fence around the site of the Halloween fire has been tagged with graffiti; scavengers have jumped the fence to gather scrap metal, Napolitano added.

To share information about the fire, reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or dbeekman@cnglocal.com

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