- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2013

D.C. firefighters Wednesday evening responded to a beloved Capitol Hill hardware store where a four-alarm fire sent a plume of black smoke streaming over the city.

The fire broke out shortly after 6:30 p.m. at Frager’s Hardware, located at 1115 Pennsylvania Ave. in Southeast and one of the oldest hardware stores in the District. Employees said a handful of customers were in the store at the time the fire started but that they believed everyone had gotten out safely.

One man in the store at the time said he saw a thin stream of smoke and initially thought it was perhaps coming from a barbecue.

The blaze grew quickly and moved fast, with onlookers concerned about flammable chemicals, lumber and propane tanks in the store. Scores of firefighters and hazardous materials teams responded to the scene, along with firefighters from Naval District Washington.

Standing across the street from the massive fire, smoke billowing, Deputy Fire Chief John Donnelly said the blaze started at about 6:30p.m. and “very quickly the fire overwhelmed the initial response,” due to the many flammable things sold at the store.

“We’re talking about things in a normal hardware store,” he said. “Paint, varnishes, wood.” Firefighters could be seen carrying propane tanks out of the store’s garden area, while other firefighters battled flames attempting to crawl up and out of the building.

Chief Donnelly said the fire was being battled defensively, meaning no firefighters were allowed inside the building but were using ladders and hoses to fight the flames outside.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known. The store’s website says Frager’s has been in operation since 1920.

• Meredith Somers can be reached at msomers@washingtontimes.com.

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