FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — A Fall River hardware store collapsed after a massive fire destroyed the business, and left firefighters battling flames for hours in the bitter cold.
The fire started around 3:45 p.m. at Flint Hardware on Pleasant Street, in the Flint section of the city. Fire Chief John Lynch said the owner, Manuel Botelho, was the only person inside at the time.
“I’ve been in business for the last 26 years,” Botelho told Eyewitness News. “It was my life.”
He said a passerby alerted him that smoke was coming out of his building. He escaped with his two pet parrots and his dog, but says his cat died in the fire.
Firefighters who arrived on scene went into the store in search of the source of the flames, discovering them in the ceiling. When fire broke through to the roof, firefighters were evacuated from the building. It collapsed shortly thereafter, the debris hitting a firefighter in the face.
That firefighter suffered minor injuries, according to Chief Lynch.
Dozens of people watched on as the store where they bought their paint, tools and other odds-and-ends burned to the ground.
“It’s sad, because this business has been here…forever,” said Karen McDonald of Somerset, whose parents live in the neighborhood.
The locals call the store’s owner “Manny,” and know him for his parrots and other pets he brings to the store.
Botelho said the store has been open since 1933.
Chief Lynch said the paint, propane and other cumbustibles in the store helped the fire spread. The sound of exploding paint can could be heard from across the street.
Two adjacent buildings did not catch fire, Lynch said, despite being extremely close to the hardware store. He said firefighters constantly doused the exposed sides of the buildings with water. The homes did sustain smoke damage, and residents were evacuated.
The American Red Cross said they were helping four people, while other other residents went to stay with family and friends for the night.
Lynch said the cause of the fire is under investigation, but it does not appear suspicious.