EVERETT — Shortly after the alarm company called him at his Everett home Monday night, Brian Hollingshead stepped out on his front porch and looked east.
He could see smoke billowing over the downtown.
His heart began to sink.
For 18 years, Everett Office Furniture has been his business.
It was destroyed by fire over a matter of hours.
“It was an old wood-frame building with huge posts and beams,” Hollingshead said Tuesday afternoon. “It being wooden and as old as it was, it also was a tinderbox, so when it started to go, it went in a hurry.”
The three-alarm fire at the store still smoldered Tuesday in downtown Everett. Its cause remains unclear.
Damage is estimated at $1.5 million.
A bright orange column of smoke filled the sky above the furniture store, at 2931 Broadway, when flames broke out in the century-old building around 10:15 p.m. Monday.
Zach Duncan, 20, had come back to his workplace, Smart Start, to do homework for community college classes when he heard crackling. He looked outside, and saw the building next door on fire. He ran inside, grabbed money from the till and pulled a client’s car out of the auto shop. He missed the midnight deadline for his homework assignment.
Every available firefighter in the city rushed to the scene. Neighboring fire departments sent ladder trucks, too. One man in a nearby second-story apartment was rescued by ladder. He was not hurt.
The furniture store collapsed at 11 p.m. Power poles caught fire and exploded in an alley. Live wires arced.
The building was finished in the early 1900s with a bowstring-style roof, a design that “fails pretty quickly under heat,” said Steve Goforth, assistant fire marshal for the Everett Fire Department.
It sold two years ago for $900,000, according to Snohomish County Assessor’s records.
The full cost of the damage was still being calculated. For example, Smart Start, an ignition interlock installation business, took a great deal of water damage to its shop.
Evan Mauro, of Black Diamond, had been playing defense in a recreational league hockey game at Xfinity Arena. It was the first period of the first game of the year, he said, when someone noticed flames across the street. They finished the game.
“That’s the goalie’s car right there,” he said, pointing to a car parallel-parked feet from the collapsed roof.
Firefighters battled flames and flareups until daybreak.
Broadway was closed to traffic near the fire scene Tuesday. Northbound drivers were detoured at Pacific Avenue. Southbound traffic was being rerouted at California Street. City crews had adjusted signal timing to keep traffic moving.
Hazy white smoke still billowed from the rubble into the afternoon. Crews brought in an excavator to begin sifting through the wreckage, in search of the fire’s cause.
Federal investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were called in to help Everett fire officials, because of the size and complexity of the fire, Goforth said.
It appeared to be the largest fire downtown since the nearby McCrossen Building was destroyed on Hewitt Avenue in 2012. A year later, another major blaze damaged the Hodges Building on the same block.
Both of those fires were fatal.
Hollingshead, 62, rented the building with the large showroom and warehouse space downstairs.
He woke up early Tuesday and began to assess the situation. As the day wore on, he started to realize the breadth of logistical issues ahead, including missing computer and paper files burned in the fire.
He’s resolved to reopen, hopefully soon, with four employees working the phones, offering quotes and making sales.
In the next few months, Hollingshead will try to find a more permanent home.
“We will get through it, but it is going to take a little while,” he said.
Reporter Rikki King contributed to this story.
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@herald net.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.