Major fires destroys Ocala charity

Everything one local charity needs to help the poor has been destroyed by a fast moving fire. It happened at the Interfaith Emergency Services Thrift Store in Ocala early Friday morning. The fire sparked after a car slammed into the outdoor storage area, while the driver was fleeing from Ocala Police after blowing through a stop sign.  Something ignited when the man crashed through the fence.  Surveillance footage shows within minutes, it’s a full blown fireball, consuming everything in the storage area.

“It spread so quickly because so much of what we had was flammable,” said Interfaith CEO Karla Grimsley, “We had nice new donations of paper goods and napkins and matches, the perfect storm for a fire.”  It took Ocala firefighters 40 minutes to knock down the fire, which left up to $150,000 of ruined merchandise in its soggy wake.

No one was hurt, but hundreds of people will feel the burn from this fire because Interfaith provides clothing, food, shelter, and medications to people in need all over Marion County.  The donations that went up in smoke would have been sold at the Thrift Store, and the proceeds used to buy medications for hundreds of people who can’t afford them.  Now, without anywhere to store donations, Interfaith might not be able to keep accepting them.

The charity is asking for donations of storage pods or semi-trailers to keep operations running.  Meanwhile, Ocala Police are still looking for that driver.  He took off on foot after the crash.  Anyone with information is asked to call the Ocala Police Department at 369-7000, or Crime Stoppers at 368-STOP.