Published Monday, 23 July 2012
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The blaze began in a disused storage building and spread to nearby shops shortly after 1.15am. Part of a building collapsed during the blaze, which was put out almost seven hours later.
While the Spar shop was gutted, the entire stock of the chemist was destroyed.
Although no-one was hurt, the scene remains unsafe.
Stephen Cusick, who lives across the road, said the fire was so intense he feared for the safety of his partner and two-year-old child.
"The flames were coming out over the roof, they were coming out the front of the Spar," he said. "The smoke was everywhere - you couldn't look out your window."
Local resident Sarah Lunn said she was "shocked" to see the state of the buildings.
She added that customers would miss the shops not being open.
The Fire and Rescue Service said that the fire was started deliberately.
Seven fire engines and a number of specialist appliances were involved in the attempt to bring the blaze under control.
"The fire was flamed by strong winds last night," said Area Commander Alan Walmsley, who commended fire crews for preventing the blaze from further spreading.
Mr Walmsley said they believe the fire was arson and PSNI are investigating the cause of the blaze.
North Belfast DUP MLA William Humphrey said the destruction caused by the fire was "appalling".
"The destruction of the food store is a terrible loss for residents in the Ballysillan/Ligoniel area, particularly for senior citizens.
"Our thoughts are also very much with the owners and with the staff whose livelihoods have suddenly been lost. I will be seeking to ensure that every assistance is provided to help them get through this terrible ordeal."
Police would ask anyone who may have witnessed any suspicious activity in the area overnight to contact them.