The $500,000 blaze that destroyed Taylor's Furniture warehouse in Ellicott City late Thursday night caused so much damage that fire inspectors say they may never know what started it.
The fire -- the second in a little more than two weeks in the city's historic district -- destroyed a 120-year-old wooden building that stored sofas, wood furniture and bedding, said Deputy State Fire Marshall Bob Thomas.
The 30-by-50-foot warehouse at Old Columbia Pike and Main Street was one of the historic town's oldest buildings and at one time or another had been a stable, a funeral home and a car dealership.
An enormous pile of blackened wood remained in place of the red, three-story building that served as storage and office space for the furniture store. A half-charred Taylor Furniture sign was the only recognizable object.
"We're being hampered by the total collapse of the building," Mr. Thomas said. "We're not sure we will ever be able to determine the exact cause of the fire."
More than 30 pieces of fire equipment and 125 firefighters from Howard, Carroll and Baltimore counties battled the flames, first reported at 11:17 p.m. They took more than four hours to bring under control.
"It's one of the four or five major fires [ever] in historic Ellicott City," said Battalion Chief Donald Howell of the Howard County Fire Department.
At one point, firefighters sprayed nearby shops and apartments with water to keep the flames from spreading to Tongue Row, a stretch of antique and collectible shops about 50 feet away. Residents of the 8200 block of Main Street -- 25 feet away from the fire -- were evacuated. There were no injuries.
Manny Eisenstadt, vice president of Taylor's Furniture, said business would run as usual at the retail store, in the 8100 block of Main Street.
Last month, arsonists caused more than $200,000 damage to Ellicott's Country Store and Heirlooms Too -- both antique shops -- as well as to two apartments. No arrests have been made.