Investigators: Authorities search for suspected arsonist after causing $1M in damage to shopping cen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Fire investigators have determined a massive two-alarm fire in southwest Charlotte was intentionally set.

The fire broke out around 9:30 p.m.Tuesday at the Starmount Shopping Center on South Boulevard.

The main business impacted is called Payal Indian Groceries and Spices, which was completed gutted by the fire.

[IMAGES: Massive 2-alarm fire guts southwest Charlotte business]

Other surrounding businesses also took on smoke and water damage including Bestway Rent to Own.

Police are looking for their suspect, Devandrak Patel, who is a familiar face in the area.

“I've seen him like, walking around pretty much (at) the location,” resident Carlos Baez said.

Baez said Patel is homeless and has been around the shopping center a lot.

He can't imagine why Patel would set the fire.

“I have no idea,” Baez said. “I mean, he seems like a calm guy, like he'd get along with everybody.”

Firefighters spend the better part of an hour knocking down the flames at the shopping center and stopped it from spreading further. Charlotte Fire reported more than 50 firefighters battled the fire.

Traffic along South Boulevard near Old Pineville Road was impacted for several hours.

Work is underway to seal Payal Indian Groceries and Spices until it can be torn down or rebuilt.

Most businesses in the shopping center were closed Wednesday because of smoke.

No injuries were reported.

Charlotte Fire said the fire was set intentionally and the damage estimates are $1 million.

No other information has been released.

This is an ongoing investigation. Check back with wsoctv.com for more information. 

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