Two people in custody in connection with El Rey fire

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee police say two 17-year-old boys are now in custody in connection with the El Rey grocery store fire that happened on the city’s southwest side on Thursday, January 3rd.

The suspects could be seen in surveillance video that police were seeking for questioning.

Officials say the fire broke out around 11:42 p.m. in an overhang that housed grocery carts at the store near 51st and Oklahoma Ave. Authorities say the fire was contained to the outside of the building. However,  the inside of the grocery store did sustain significant smoke damage.

Store manager Nelson Lang says nearly $200,000 worth of food and products were tossed in dumpsters due to smoke damage on Friday.  He estimated the total loss of merchandise will exceed $300,000, with more work on the way.

"We have to take the entire ceiling, down, and apply a sealant over all the fire smoked exposed areas, paint, and then reinstall the ceiling," says Lang.

A restoration expert says all of the canned goods in the store will have to be individually washed. The rest of the product will all be tossed. That includes hundreds of pounds of meat and cases of fresh produce.

The store is doing their best to continue to provide work for it's 60 employees.
"This store means a lot to me.  They are very good people, they helped me out a lot.  So I want to pay, I want to help out, and just be here for them," says employee Vanessa Fuentes. 

The Milwaukee Fire Department has not yet ruled the fire arson, but says investigators were working the case Saturday.  Milwaukee Police did not say if the two men in custody will be recommended for charges.

Monitor FOX6 News and for updates on this developing story.