SABATTUS – A store clerk was blown back and singed by flames in a fire that tore through Cumberland Farms on Route 126 late Friday.

Customers from three businesses fled to safety as fire devoured part of the convenience store at about 10 p.m.

Cumberland Farms clerk Eric LaRue suffered minor burns when he attempted to battle the fire that started in a store bathroom.

“I noticed an odd odor and the back lights went out. I went toward the bathroom and I could see there was fire under the door,” LaRue said.

The 27-year-old told his two customers to run from the store. He snatched a fire extinguisher, hoping to subdue the flames before they could spread beyond the bathroom.

“I opened the door. There was a back draft that set my hair on fire,” LaRue said. “A customer who was still in the store helped put out the fire in my hair and we got out of there.”

As Cumberland Farms and two attached businesses filled with smoke, LaRue said he was unable to close switches to the gas pumps before fleeing.

Three rows of pumps sit roughly 20 feet to the front of the strip mall with underground tanks nearby. A rack filled with propane tanks are located on the outside of the building, approximately 15 feet from the area where the flames began.

As customers spilled from the store, a Chinese restaurant and a video store, firefighters arrived from Sabattus and Lewiston.

By then, fire was spreading near the rear of the convenience store and smoke filled each of the businesses in the strip mall.

“When I got here, flames were coming through the side of the store,” said police Sgt. Rick Bates. “The smoke was just rolling out.”

Firefighters entered the store and attacked the flames spreading from the bathroom while others sprayed jets of water from outside. By 10:30 p.m., flames were shooting from the rear corner of Cumberland Farms as firefighters ventilated the roof.

The cause of the blaze was unknown. Several witnesses reported a smell of electrical burning around the time the fire began.

At 11 p.m., crews were getting the blaze under control. One person was being examined for possible smoke inhalation.

Located next to Cumberland Farms, Yeung’s Chinese Restaurant sustained smoke damage. Next to that, Qwik Stop Video was also damaged by the thick smoke that spread from the store.

It remained unclear late Friday whether or not those businesses would be able to re-open Saturday.

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