Fire Causes $250,000 In Damage to Grocer
It is the third time flames have ravaged the Fort Meade store.

By Dana Willhoit
The Ledger

FORT MEADE -- A fire Wednesday afternoon caused an estimated $250,000 worth of damage to Fowler's Grocery store in Fort Meade.

It was the third time the store has been ravaged by fire. It completely burned down in the 1990s, and it was damaged in the 1970s, according to Fort Meade volunteer Fire Chief Billy Gunter.

The store caters to many businesses in the area, Gunter said. The barbecuing, chicken frying and deli areas were all destroyed, and there was heavy smoke damage throughout the store, damaging most of the inventory.

Wednesday evening, store employees were still moving some inventory into refrigerated units, Gunter said.

The fire was reported shortly after 2 p.m. Employees in the store heard an explosion in the back of the store near a walk-in freezer, Gunter said. The fire appeared to have originated in a cooling unit there.

An employee tried to put the fire out with a fire extinguisher, but could not, according to Kevin Shireman of the State Fire Marshal's Office.

Gunter estimated that about 20 to 22 of Fort Meade's 28 volunteer firefighters responded to the fire. They were helped by firefighters from Polk County Fire Department, Bartow, Hardee County and Frostproof.

It took about 45 minutes to get the fire under control, Gunter said.

The store at 3595 U.S. 98 E. is owned by Scott Fowler. He couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Dana Willhoit can be reached at dana.willhoit@theledger.com or 863-802-7550.