The owner and an employee were working at the store, which is open 24 hours a day, when it started to fill with smoke shortly after 3 a.m., according to Highland Fire Chief Doug Wortham. They exited the building and called 9-1-1.
Wortham said firefighters arrived on the scene nine minutes after they were dispatched, but by that time the building was fully engulfed in flames.
High winds hindered the firefighters' attack, and it was 6 a.m. before the fire was completely under control, despite the presence of five firetrucks and 23 firefighters, Wortham said.
"We ran low on water, but our biggest problem was the wind," Wortham said. "It kept it fed."
The scene was cordoned off with police tape, and the fire department remained on the scene for five days awaiting the arrival of the insurance company investigator, Wortham said.
Wortham said the department will bill the insurance company more than $7,000 for the time spent on the scene. "But they won't pay it," he predicted. He said insurance companies rarely pay fire invoices.
The fire is also being investigated by Arkansas State Police Investigators Stan Witt and Wendell Jines, both of Cherokee Village.
The Highland Fire Department provided three firetrucks and 12 firefighters, the Ash Flat Fire Department two firetruck and 11 firefighters.
Lineman Braden Ables of Entergy disconnected power to the building upon his arrival, before donning his fire gear as a volunteer firefighter.
Wortham said the gas tanks beneath the store's parking lot were never in danger, "but we also kept water on them," he said.
The chief said no estimated value has yet been placed on the loss. The owner was granted permission Monday to begin clearing the site to prepare for rebuilding, Wortham added.