HOUSTON A strip center containing a pet store, a tax office, and a beauty shop went up in flames early Thursday afternoon, sending workers scrambling to save what they could. The fire spread quickly and created quite a bit of fear.

The Houston Fire Department was called to the 11100 block of E. Hardy at 12:39 p.m.

Air 11 was over the scene as heavy flames shot from the back of the strip center.

At least a dozen people were running around in the parking lot. Several went back into the burning building to save animals from Richard Sanchez s pet store. Cages were brought out and placed away from the smoke.

Hugo works at a tire shop down the street.

I was on my bike and just came over here to help to get them safe, he said.

Sanchez s pet store sells snakes, mice and lot of birds. He also had two cute little puppies in there.

The pet store received the least amount of damage, but at the other end of the building, a tax business was completely destroyed.

Virginia Thompson owns a beauty salon in the strip center. Some of her ceiling caved in.

But the rest of the stuff survived and everybody else survived, so that s fine, she said.

Leal Frankes, who has been a customer at the beauty parlor since 1972, was in the chair getting her hair done when the fire broke out.

Somebody opened the door and said fire so we just got out, she said.

Thankfully no one - was hurt, including the pets.

The fire is still under investigation but it appears to have started at a breaker box located behind this building, officials said.

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