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JCPenney store fire forces shoppers elsewhere

1:15 PM, Dec 23, 2013   |    comments
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Brandon, Florida -- Last minute shoppers were forced to search for gifts somewhere else after Hillsborough Fire and Rescue said an electric fire sparked in the walls of a Brandon department store.

Fire crews said several people were inside the JCPenney at the Westfield Mall off Highway 60 and smelled smoke. They all got out of the store safely and called 911.

The fire started around 11:30 p.m. on Saturday.

A spokesperson said the damage to the store is estimated to be in the millions.

Some are calling the fire a "retail Grinch" because of the timing. 

"This is the worst possible time of year, with all the weekend shoppers before Christmas," said one shopper who had hoped to buy a few gifts at JCPenney.

Stanley Steemers trucks were camped out front of the store all day Sunday. Yellow tape surrounded the entrance. A security guard stood at the front of the store to tell customers it would not be opened.

The marketing director for Westfield Mall Brandon said the store will not be opened until after Christmas.

Customers can get updates on when the JCPenney will re-open on the mall's Facebook page.

"I was actually wondering why there were no cars in the parking lot, because I had to convince my husband to go shopping, because it is such a busy weekend," said shopper Laura Engman.  "I guess we will have to make the last minute rounds somewhere else."

A representative at JCPenney tells 10 News that employees at the store will still be paid for all scheduled hours.

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