A tense situation for DC Firefighters -- as they were forced to quickly evacuate a raging fire Wednesday night. There were 50 men and women battling the flames inside a warehouse in the 400 block of Morse Street NE, which started around 10:30pm. The smoke and flames became too intense -- and the Chief on scene called for an evacuation.
"If we have to evacuate a building we're in a very high risk situation, and it was very hairy for about 15 minutes", said Deputy Chief John Donnelly.
A second alarm was sounded. In all, about 120 firefighters responded. They ran more supply lines - and began to attack with hoses and ladder trucks from the outside, but at 2am there were still flames shooting through the roof. It took another 90 minutes to bring the blaze under control.
The 400 block of Morse Street, just off Florida Avenue NE is a busy cluster of warehouses. Some distribute meat, produce and baked goods. Others import cheap street goods. It appears the fire started at the W&W Warehouse. Its storefront says it sells necklaces, cellphone cases, umbrellas, watches & socks. It sits in the center of a cluster of adjacent businesses that are attached to the old Union Terminal Market. The building dates back to at least 1931, when it was a bustling farmers market. At the time there were indoor stalls for 700 vendors who sold meat, fish, dairy and produce.
Deputy Chief Donnelly said old buildings like these can be especially dangerous for firefighters to work in.
"Warehouses are dangerous for a lot of reasons," explained Deputy Chief John Donnelly. "one of them is, they're kept secure. So they're hard to get in. That keeps burglars out but it also serves to keeps firemen out. The scond thing is that's it a lot of materials stored in a very small space, and stored in ways that uh, if a fire does start it can spread very quickly. And that appears to be what happened here, that the fire spread pretty quickly and um, it was very challenging to put out. "
This is not the same location as the new Union Market DC, which opened to much fanfare in September. That sits about a block away on 5th Street NE where the Union Terminal Market moved to in the 1960's. It was renovated and is now the city's newest trendy spot to get artisan farmer's market goods. The new location was not impacted by the fire.
It's not believed that anyone was inside the old warehouse at the time of the fire, but as of 9am Thursday investigators had not been able to get inside. At daybreak there were still several hot spots where steam and smoke could be seen rising off the building.
Occasionally fire crews had to carefully climb back up on the roof that had been weakened by fire & water and punch holes in the brick facade to provide more ventilation.
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