Earlier story: Explosive fire damages one of Arlington’s oldest buildings
ARLINGTON — A fire Monday night left broken boards, shattered glass and bent metal in the partially collapsed shell of a downtown shop.
The fire started around 7:14 p.m. Monday at 2 Bits and More, an indoor flea market and thrift shop on North Olympic Avenue. More than 50 firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze. They doused the flames a little before 11 p.m., city spokeswoman Kristin Banfield said.
Firefighters remained on scene overnight to monitor hot spots. They cleared out early Tuesday morning as the county fire marshal’s office came in to investigate the cause and manner of the fire. The investigation was expected to take some time because the fire left the building unstable and debris may need to be moved, Banfield said.
The shop was built in the late 1800s or early 1900s and is one of the oldest commercial buildings downtown. It’s been remodeled many times and has been under the same ownership as 2 Bits and More since the early 1990s, she said.
It’s owned by Dawn Ambler, who stood in the street late Tuesday morning, her neice and a friend with her. They surveyed the damage. Ambler cried. Most of her adult life has been spent as the owner of that shop, she said.
The heat and smoke from the fire caused extensive damage to the building. The front windows blew out and the back of the building caved in. On Tuesday morning, blackened boards showed through a twisted red metal roof. Scorched furniture, signs and other items could be seen in the burnt, hollow interior of the store.
Firefighters contained the blaze to one building. They used Bistro San Martin next door as an access point, and that building may have some smoke damage, Banfield said. The owners of the bistro were helpful to firefighters in gaining the access they needed, she said.
On Tuesday morning, the Quick Stop on the other side of 2 Bits and More was open for business as usual.
During the fire, officials and neighbors worried the blaze would spread among downtown’s tightly packed old buildings.
Danny Dospod lives in an apartment above the Stilly Diner, two doors down from 2 Bits and More. He was at home watching television and playing a game on his computer when he heard several loud booms. He later learned they were the windows of the shop shattering. He thought he heard screaming outside, and then firefighters were pounding on doors to get people out. He didn’t wait for them to reach his door, instead gathering some valuables and hurrying out to his car.
“I thought Stilly’s was gonna go, too,” he said. “It was scary. I thought our building was gone, for sure.”
He was back home Tuesday morning and stepped outside to snap some photos on his cell phone of the collapsed back end of the shop. He’s grateful to the firefighters and that the stone and brick in the building between his apartment and the store helped keep the flames from spreading, he said.
People gathered across the street on Tuesday morning, near City Hall and the police department, to snap photos and talk about the fire. They were relieved to hear that no injuries have been reported, but worried about some unanswered questions, such as whether the shop owners have insurance to help cover the damage.
Cherene Graber lives in Trafton and regularly walks with a friend and her Rottweiler, Olaf, in downtown Arlington. She’d heard about the fire on television and through Facebook, but stopped Tuesday to see for herself. She’d heard the fire was bad, but was surprised by the amount of damage it caused. She hadn’t shopped at 2 Bits and More recently but often strolled by and paused to peek at the displays.
“It’s just sad to see. It’s a local business that’s been here a long time,” she said. “We always liked to see what was in the window.”
Herald photographer Andy Bronson contributed to this report.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org