2 store owners dead in South Los Angeles strip mall fire

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A man and woman believed to be owners of the 99-Cent-Plus store in South Los Angeles were killed in a fire at the strip mall early Tuesday. (KABC)

Two store owners were killed in a fire at a strip mall in South Los Angeles early Tuesday morning.

The Los Angeles City Fire Department said the blaze broke out at the 99 Cent Plus store in the 4700 block of South Broadway Street at about 5:35 a.m.

After battling the fire for about 30 minutes, firefighters discovered a man and a woman in the back of the store. Officials said it took firefighters longer than usual to gain access to the building due to the security measures in place.

"We had three security devices on the front of this building. We had steel closed scissor gates, we had a rolling steel door and also padlocked doors on the front, so that took time for firefighters to gain access," David Ortiz with the Los Angeles City Fire Department explained.

AIR7 HD captured crews pulling the victims from the building.

The victims, a man in his 60s and a woman in her 50s, were rushed to the hospital in grave condition, but later died, according to officials.

Employees at a neighboring business told Eyewitness News the victims had moved here from Nevada to take over the store in January and sometimes slept there overnight.

"I don't know if this is their primary residence, where they spend most of their time, but there are some indications that they might have been sleeping there," Ortiz said. "It is not zoned to be a residence. There is no exit out the back. The people who were in there only had one way out and that was out the front where the fire was well established."

Officials said the store was packed with products, including plastics and tobacco, that burned quickly. Investigators were looking for clues and evidence to help identify the victims.

The fire department said an investigation into the cause of the fire was underway, but said their preliminary investigation indicates the fire was not suspicious.

The victims' names were not released pending the notification of next of kin.
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