2-alarm fire heavily damages shops in Annapolis strip mall

Anne Arundel

October 06, 2004|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

A two-alarm blaze destroyed portions of a Forest Drive strip mall early yesterday, causing an estimated $1 million in damage and temporarily closing two businesses, Annapolis Fire Department officials said.

Shortly after 2 a.m., fire units received a call about an emergency alarm sounding at the Clock Tower Plaza, said Annapolis Fire Department spokesman Capt. Douglas Remaley.

While the first crews were on their way to the scene, calls came in from neighbors reporting the blaze, Remaley said.

The fire spread quickly, and flames had ravaged much of the interior of Brilliant Optical by the time firefighters arrived, Remaley said. It raged for about an hour and a half before it could be contained by more than four dozen firefighters, authorities said.

Optometrist Jo Anne Brilliant, who drove to her shop immediately after she was informed of the fire, characterized last night's scene as shocking and overwhelming.

"I actually smelled [the fire] about a mile before I got here," Brilliant said. "It was pretty devastating to see."

Remaley said the shop suffered significant structural damage and will require extensive repairs.

But Brilliant said she plans to be back to work at the family business before this weekend.

"We'll be in trailers, hopefully in a day or two," she said, watching, with friends nearby, as fire investigators and insurance adjusters surveyed the scene and sifted through the store's burnt remains.

The store adjacent to Brilliant Optical, Wine Cellars of Annapolis, also was damaged by the fire, though not as severely.

Manager Jerry DePoy said some portions of the two-year- old shop, which was in the midst of an expansion, were ruined by smoke and water.

Yesterday, DePoy did not have an estimate on damage to inventory or to the 4,700-square-foot space, which still carried a heavy smell of soot and burned wood.

Nevertheless, parts of the older section will be open today, and the entire original store will be fully operational by Saturday, DePoy said.

Construction of the shop's new section will be delayed - most likely until all of the fire damage has been repaired, he said.

Remaley said yesterday that investigators were not sure of the cause, though foul play does not appear to have been a factor in the fire.

Anne Arundel fire officials said the blaze was one of the most costly in the county this year.

Last week, a fire at the future Marley Elementary School in Glen Burnie caused more than $1.5 million in damage. Two adults and two juveniles have been arrested and charged with arson.

Meanwhile, authorities said that a small blaze Monday night that damaged a dormitory at St. John's College and displaced more than 40 students appears to have been accidental.

The fire began in a second-floor room in Randall Hall after the contents of an ashtray were dumped into a trashcan.

Damage is estimated at $20,000, and fire officials said all students have returned to their rooms.

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