Five-Alarm Fire Rages in Annapolis

Crowds gather along Main Street in Annapolis to watch firefighters battle a blaze that spread through three buildings in the historic district.
Crowds gather along Main Street in Annapolis to watch firefighters battle a blaze that spread through three buildings in the historic district. (Photos By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
By Ray Rivera and Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, November 26, 2005

A stubborn five-alarm fire blazed last night through three commercial buildings in the historic district of Annapolis, near the State House and the Naval Academy.

About 75 firefighters fought the fire for hours in cramped and hazardous conditions in the 100 block of Main Street as scores of people gathered in the cold to watch leaping flames and clouds of gray and white smoke billow upward.

Damage was described as "very, very, very substantial" by Harvey Blonder, who said he was one of the owners of the structures. "I believe it's a total wipeout," he said.

The fire broke out shortly before 8 p.m. in one of the two- and three-story buildings about 300 yards east of the State House.

Capt. Joseph Martin of the Annapolis Fire Department said the blaze was declared under control at 11:42 p.m.

Firefighting difficulties abounded. Buildings were close together, surrounded by narrow old streets. Authorities said the buildings' upper floors lacked sprinklers. At one point firefighters were called out of one of them when "the roof got weak," Martin said.

The fate of the structures was uncertain early today: "You might have a great big hole," Martin said.

Martin said the blaze was originally reported as an electrical fire on or near the ground floor of the building that houses the Candy Factory, at 118 Main St. But he said it was too early to know the cause of the fire.

He said it spread to an adjacent building that houses a jewelry store and to one next door to that, which houses an ice cream shop.

One firefighter suffered a minor injury, when embers fell down his back, Martin said. No other injuries were reported.

He said the jewelry store was open at the time the fire began. He believed the businesses in the other two buildings were open as well. Authorities said power was cut off to fight the fire, prompting the evacuation of other businesses. They said WRNR (103.1-FM) , based nearby, went off the air.

On arriving at the scene, Michael Fox, who was acting as Annapolis mayor last night, said, "There were flames coming off the roof, there were flames shooting out the windows" before everything turned to smoke.


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