Owner works to reopen after losing convenience store to blaze started by candle

- It's been nearly a month since a fire forced a small Minneapolis convenience store to shut its doors.

Investigators initially thought it was arson, but it turns out it was all started by a candle.

In a surveillance video, you can see a candle flickering that had been burning all night long. The flame gets bigger and then something catches and that’s it.

“The candle failed and one of the first combustible materials near the candle was a display of axe body spray and the aerosol cans began to explode,” said Sgt. Sean McKenna, a Minneapolis Police Arson Investigator.

When firefighters arrived, they initially thought arson.

“We had some reports of loud booms, we had reports of someone running away from the scene, we discovered a can of some sort of ignitable liquid in the parking lot near some burned up newspapers,” McKenna said.

Owner Martin Ohun visits his charred store often. He is devastated for sure, but feels reassured knowing no one tried to burn down it down.

“A big relief too,” Ohun said. “Because it wasn’t like somebody wanted to drive me from here. So it’s a big relief.”

The store is his life and his American dream. Seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. he’s at the store. He misses his customers, many of them high schoolers who have helped raise $25,000 for Martin to replace what he lost.

“Sometimes it’s frustrating,” he said. “Cause I don’t know what to do. But you know, the encouragement I’ve gotten from the neighborhood from the community. Wow, it’s been unbelievable.”

It’s unclear when the store will reopen.  The landlord has told Martin he will take care of rebuilding, but when the doors do open again, customers will no longer see a candle burning.

“I keep thinking about it every day,” he said. “How I ended up in this situation because of carelessness.  It’s a lesson, a tough lesson.”

It’s right around now that firefighters start seeing fires started by candles. The busiest days for that are Dec. 24, 25 and 26. Officials urge everyone to remember to blow out the candles.  Meanwhile, as for when Martin will reopen, it's likely still about six months away.

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