ARLINGTON — Firefighters had just cleared people off Olympic Avenue in front of a shop when the heat inside blew out the front windows Monday evening.
No injuries were reported but several families were displaced and one of the city’s oldest commercial buildings partially collapsed after a fire broke out in downtown Arlington.
About 50 firefighters from five stations battled the blaze. The fire was reported around 7:14 p.m. and as of 10:15 p.m., it continued to burn.
“This is one of the original buildings in downtown, from the late 1800s or early 1900s,” city spokeswoman Kristin Banfield said.
The building is across the street from City Hall and the police station. A police officer was on scene within seconds and firefighters arrived within 2 minutes, Banfield said. Around 10 p.m., they had two ladder trucks in operation and four streams of water on the fire.
“This one’s proving pretty difficult to put out,” Banfield said. “We’re trying to contain it to one building.”
No injuries were reported. The store had been closed for several hours and the bistro next door does not serve dinner on Mondays, though it does serve dinner other nights.
“This could have been much worse,” Banfield said.
The building has been remodeled many times and there are a lot of nooks and crannies, she said, making it a complicated job for firefighters to extinguish the flames. The back of building partially collapsed and firefighters were not going inside because the building was not stable, Banfield said.
The fire marshal is expected to determine cause of the fire once it is put out.
Many of the downtown buildings have businesses on the ground floor and apartments above. Between 10 and 15 people were displaced by the fire. Red Cross and other local support were on hand to help the families, who were able to take shelter in the City Council chambers.
A council meeting was happening during the fire. Banfield was at the meeting when she heard the explosion of the windows shattering.
Olympic Avenue was closed for several blocks around the fire. Banfield advised people to plan for alternate routes until further notice.
“This is one of those where we’re definitely going to be here all night,” she said.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org