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TV Towne reopens, management plans to rebuild

Just days after its store was totally destroyed by fire, the Sunnyside TV Towne management has relocated and opened its doors in the east end of the old Kmart building on Yakima Valley Highway.

"We should be receiving new inventory in the next few days," said Bill Blondin, store manager.

Today (Monday), Blondin and his staff were already beginning work to get an office open, and arranging to have phone lines installed.

"For the time being we are using our personal cell phones for most calls," Blondin said. He said TV Towne customers can drop by to make payments.

In the meantime, crews are preparing the building for use as a display floor, he said.

"This will be our temporary headquarters until our new building can be built," he said, noting TV Towne plans to rebuild on the site of the burnt building.

"We plan to be open Monday through Saturday," Blondin added.

Last Thursday afternoon Sunnyside firemen responded to a fire that destroyed the Sunnyside TV Towne store at 1508 Yakima Valley Highway, which had been remodeled less than a year ago.

"We are in deep shock," said Blondin, who said he was on vacation when he got the call that his store was on fire.

Joe Chavez, store credit manager, was in his office when a he learned the back of the store was on fire. He said an employee of Tire Factory alerted the store staff to the fire. "We called 9-1-1 and started getting people out of the store," Chavez said.

The firemen responded quickly, he added, noting he tried unsuccessfully to put the fire out with a small fire extinguisher in the store. A neighbor from across the fence behind the store is the one who alerted Chavez to the cause of the fire. "He said he saw three boys setting sofas located on the loading dock on fire.

"He was trying to put out the fire with a garden hose," Chavez added.

Sunnyside firemen were aided by several Lower Valley fire departments and more than 50 firefighters in containing the blaze, which resulted in the total loss of the store and its inventory. The firemen were hampered by the late afternoon heat, as well as traffic on Yakima Valley Highway, which made it difficult to get fire fighting apparatus into place.

Also slowing the firefighting efforts were a series of false ceilings, which kept fueling the fire.

Damages are estimated to be approximately $1 million.

"We're just very grateful no one was hurt, but the lives of the three boys involved in starting the fire will be dramatically changed," Blondin added.

Three boys were reportedly seen at the site of the fire and were arrested immediately following the start of the fire. All three were taken into police custody.

The eldest of the boys, a 12-year-old, was transported to the Yakima Juvenile Detention Center on charges of first degree arson. The two other boys were released to their parents.

"At this point we don't know the status of the charges against the other two boys," said Sunnyside Police Chief Ed Radder, who added the 12-year-old has been formally charged with first degree arson and remains in custody. Radder said the boy is scheduled to appear again in court later today.

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