A smoky two-alarm fire that took an hour to bring under control caused "considerable" damage last night to the Peoples Drug Store in the busy commercial strip on Connecticut Avenue NW just north of Calvert Street.

The fire, which broke out about 10 p.m. in the basement storage area of the Peoples at 2616 Connecticut Ave. NW, caused authorities to close Connecticut Avenue for several blocks, disrupting traffic and attracting large crowds, including youthful prom-goers.

Ninety-five firefighters used 32 pieces of equipment to battle the blaze in the building, which is near the Woodley Park Metro station.

Deputy Fire Chief Howard Dixon said the blaze, which appeared to originate amid bulky cartons in the basement, spread upward to the rear of the main floor of the one-story building.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known. No dollar estimate of damage was available, but Dixon described it as "considerable."

Firefighters were hampered by the bulk of the cartons and by exposed electrical wiring, according to Dixon. After the blaze was finally brought under control, he said, firefighters withdrew before extinguishing it fully so the electricity could be shut off.

Access to a manhole serving the building was blocked for a time by an automobile parked on top of it. The vehicle, a small sports car, was finally lifted from the manhole cover by firefighers and Potomac Electric Power Co. employes, authorities said.

One firefighter was injured at the scene when he was struck by a vehicle while laying hose in the roadway outside. Additional details were not immediately available.