A three-alarm fire last night destroyed a furniture warehouse near the Ellicott City historic district and caused at least $250,000 in damage, Howard County police said.
The fire at the three-story Taylor's Furniture warehouse on Old Columbia Pike near Main Street was the second multialarm fire to hit Ellicott City in less than a month.
Last night's fire was reported at 11:17 o'clock and went to three alarms in less than 30 minutes.
Fire companies from Howard, Baltimore and Carroll counties responded.
Damage to the 30-by-50-foot warehouse, situated directly behind post office, was nearly total, said Battalion Chief Donald Howell of Howard County's fire department.
Deputy State Fire Mardhall Bob Thomas estimated the damages at nearly $500,000. Mr. Thomas said investigators stll were trying to determine where the fire started.
He said the cause of the fire is under investigation.
The warehouse was full of furniture. The Taylor firm's offices were there and equipment used in the business was stored there. The principal store is a block away, in the 8100 block of Main St.
Flames leaping from the warehouse briefly threatened several nearby homes, whose occupants evacuated their quarters as a safety precaution.
No injuries were reported.
Firefighting units from the three counties battled the fire while hundreds of Ellicott City residents lined the streets, watching firefighters pour thousands of gallons of water on the burning warehouse.
At the height of the fire, more than 30 pieces of fire apparatus and at least 125 firefighters battled the flames that engulfed the warehouse.
Shortly after 2 a.m, much of the fire appeared to be contained.
Then the interior beams burned through and the floors collapsed, causing the fire to flare up again.
At 3:30 a.m., the building's frame collapsed, allowing firefighters to extinguish the flames more easily.
The Tiber Branch, a wide stream that runs near or under most of the warehouse, prevented some firefighting equipment from getting closer to the fire. Several aerial towers were used to pour water down into the warehouse.
Even before the fire was completely extinguished, heavy equipment was brought in to demolish what was left of the building.
On the night of Feb. 19, two antiques shops in 8100 block of Main St. in the historic district were destroyed or extensively damaged by a 2-alarm fire that county fire officials ruled as arson.
Fire officials estimated damage in that fire at more than $200,000. No one has been arrested in the arson.
In that fire, which destroyed Ellicott's Country Store and the Heirlooms Too antiques shops and two apartments, firefighters were hampered when narrow pathways and rock abutments prevented them from getting to the back of the building.
"We didn't have that problem last night with the warehouse," said Chief Howell.
Built in the 1880s, the warehouse was originally a stable. Later, according to Chief Howell, it was taken over by the Doughnut Corp. of America. Then it became a car dealership in the late 1930s. Several years ago, Taylor's Furniture bought the building.
In November 1984, a five-alarm fire destroyed a bakery, restaurant and several quaint shops in the historic district. All of the businesses burned that night have been rebuilt or have moved.