Fire damages shops in Catonsville 10 stores report loss of $1 million BALTIMORE COUNTY

December 16, 1992|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Staff Writer

Store owners salvaged what records they could and began seeking temporary locations yesterday, several hours after a four-alarm fire burned out the vacant second floor above their shops in the Rolling Road Plaza in Catonsville.

About 10 shops were heavily damaged by water and smoke from the fire at the shopping center in the 1100 block of N. Rolling Road, just north of Powers Lane.

The fire caused at least $1 million worth of damage, said Capt. Patrick T. Kelly, a spokesman for the county fire department.

A patrolling county police officer spotted the fire just before 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, at first thinking the heavy smoke was fog, Captain Kelly said.

The fire went to four alarms at 3:47 a.m., after part of the roof collapsed, forcing firefighters to work from outside the building. About 45 pieces of equipment and 140 county firefighters battled the blaze before bringing it under control just before 6 a.m.

By late yesterday, fire investigators still hadn't determined the cause or the source of the fire, Captain Kelly said.

"Those fire guys . . . were in cranes over the flames, putting the water right down into the flames. It was fantastic to watch them. Those guys are brave," said Dr. Gary I. Cohen, who also said that his files were ruined but that he hoped the names of his 800 or more patients' had been saved on computer disks.

"It's upsetting. It's like losing a part of your family," he said of his first and only office. "But I'm happy nobody was hurt. I'm young and I've got plenty of energy, and my patients, I hope, will follow me."

Dr. Cohen surmised that he was called to the fire because his name is stenciled on the office he has occupied for four years. He later contacted his fellow storekeepers, who have known each other for years.

"The police called me at 3 in the morning, and I came out immediately," he said. "I called the [others] at 6:30 to 7 a.m. I let them catch a little sleep first."

Dr. Cohen said he would look for an office close by. So, too, will Louis Gabriele, who retrieved files from his hair salon in the shopping center yesterday.

"I just grabbed a couple of things to reach our clients," he said. "The files are OK. The equipment, I don't know."

The fire couldn't have hit at a worse time, said Mr. Gabriele.

"These are the biggest weeks of the year: Everybody is going to get their hair cut for the holidays," he said, adding that he and his stylists hope to relocate by Thursday.

Teri Bucher, a receptionist for a group of orthodontists, said the group already had found a temporary location. Yesterday, she was busy rescheduling Tuesday appointments.

The Fair Lanes Bowling Centers used to have its corporate headquarters in the burned-out second floor, but those offices had been vacant for some time, Captain Kelly said.

The 32-lane bowling alley itself was without power yesterday, said manager Rose Easton, but the firewall did its job and stopped the fire at the corner of the L-shaped shopping center.

Yesterday, the lane's employees called league players to cancel Tuesday night's games. The lane was expected to reopen today, she said. The biggest job was to dry out the sopping wet carpet.

Also at the shopping center yesterday was Robert M. Staugaitis, regional operations coordinator for BTR Realty Inc. of Linthicum, the shopping center's owner. He said an insurance adjuster had been to the site but didn't have any dollar figures yet.

"It's just too early to tell, and we can't get in," Mr. Staugaitis said. "We won't be able to occupy it until, well, we don't know when."

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