Furniture store burglarized after devastating fire

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - A patio furniture store owner, who lost nearly everything in a fire that ripped through his store on Wednesday, has been knocked back down emotionally after, he said, thieves broke into his fire-damaged store and took what little he had left.

John Bender, owner of Sunniland Patio Furniture, said he noticed several missing items when he returned to the store on Monday. "It's just overwhelming. It was overwhelming before this. Now I'm faced with these guys coming in," said Bender.

Bender believes the thieves used a ladder, then broke a window and slipped through a space no larger than a picture frame. "They squirmed in there. I guess they're slimy and can slip through small places," said Bender.

Tools, an air compressor and the very generator that was providing power for cleanup were take from the store according to Bender. "I'm hoping I find a leg they lost in there on the way," said Bender.

Bender said he thought boarding up the outside windows would have been enough the secure the store from someone getting inside and hurting themselves. He said he never would have thought someone would walk into the black, charred mess and take what little he had left. "Do I have to put a roof on it to keep them out?" questioned Bender in frustration.

Bender said the theft only pushes them back even further from reopening the store. He said it is said that when he sees tragedy, others see dollars. "Those are the kind of people there are in the world. They'll take any advantage they can get and do you however they can," said Bender.

Bender said he plans to meet with the insurance company on Tuesday to begin the process of trying to rebuild.

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue said recently that investigators had a theory as to how the fire started,  but were not ready to release the information.

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