Officials with the ATF are now working with Metro Police to investigate the cause of a four-alarm fire at Frager's hardware store on Capitol Hill.
Crews arrived to flames bursting through the roof of the store just after 6 p.m. Wednesday. The fire spread from the store to three other buildings, at which point it was upgraded to a four-alarm fire.
More than 100 firefighters initially responded to the scene at 1115 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. When the fire was contained by 11 p.m., more than 200 firefighters were at the scene.
Two firefighters suffered minor injuries.
As of 4:30 p.m. Thursday, the following roads were closed:
- 11th and 12th streets northbound at G Street SE
- E Street at 10th Street SE
Eastbound Pennsylvania Avenue reopened by 4:30 p.m.
The District Department of Transportation suggested the following alternate routes:
- Benning Road
- East Capitol Street
- Route 295
- 695 (11th Street bridge)
Benning Heavy, dark smoke surrounded the area throughout the evening.
Crews told News4 it took them a long time to contain the fire because of the sheer size of the building, and the amount of items inside.
Pennsylvania Avenue SE was blocked between 8th and 14th streets throughout the evening.
Ed Copenhaver, a co-owner of Frager's, told News4 he credits an employee for evacuating the building as the fire spread.
"One of our employees was smart enough to go walk into the basement and walk through and make sure everybody was out before he left the building," Copenhaver said. "We had smart enough people to check the building before they ran out to make sure everybody got out. I've got to give them all credit. It’s a great crew. We have been fortunate to have good people and it showed today."
Frager's has been a staple in the Capitol Hill neighborhood for 90 years.
"Everybody is sad," Capitol Hill resident Joanne Hatfield said. "This is the best store. It was so personable."
The store employs about 60 people.
"They're going to continue to be our employees," Copenhaver said. "Their pay is going to continue; insurance will support them."
D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells released the following statement:
“Frager’s Hardware is a D.C. landmark and an absolute gem to the Capitol Hill community. The owner John Weintraub and former co-owner Ed Copenhaver have always given back so much to the community. This fire may present a set-back, but I can say with confidence that this community and our city will rally behind Frager's and its employees. My office will be working with the store, neighbors and community organizations to help put together a coordinated response effort. I want to thank our Firefighters and emergency responders for their efforts to contain and put out the fire.”
Some local businesses have also offered to help Frager's employees.
Matchbox on Capitol Hill is offering temporary work for Frager's 60 workers. Employees can stop by anytime between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday for more information.
The company's vice president of operations will be at the store to personally talk to the employees.
They say they will hire them until Frager's can get back on its feet.