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FIRE GUTS 25 STORES, CLOSES REST OF MALL

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An early morning fire that gutted at least 25 stores closed one of the region's biggest malls at the height of the Christmas shopping season.

"There's nothing else happening in Altoona," said Tom Miller, who works at a nearby gas station. "It hurts. This is Christmas season, and I don't know what everybody's going to do."Steve Potter, who owns a T-shirt shop, consoled his crying wife as firefighters worked to put out the flames.

"We're a week before Christmas. We're stocked," he said. "We've got our life savings in this."

Owner Crown American Corp. said the entire Logan Valley Mall, at the heart of Altoona's suburban retail district 80 miles east of Pittsburgh, would be closed today. It houses about 90 stores.

The fire brought down several sections of the mall's roof.

"There's nothing left in those stores," Fire Chief Thomas Sral said.

The cause of the blaze was under investigation.