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Fells Point Business Owners Concerned About Safety After Liquor Store Goes Up In Flames

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BALTIMORE (WJZ)— A dangerous fire rips through a busy Baltimore neighborhood and sparks new concerns over the area’s safety.

Kai Jackson has more on the chaotic scene as one man’s dreams go up in smoke.

As the investigation gets underway, the business owner and others are trying to figure out what to do next.

Video shows the massive fire that ravaged a Fells Point liquor store Thursday morning. Firefighters encountered heavy smoke on all three floors when they arrived.

“I just seen all the smoke and then the cloud of smoke,” Virginia Duncan said.

The Baltimore City Fire Department says it started about 5:30 a.m. in the 1700-block of Fleet Street. It was a blaze so intense, the roof collapsed and forced firefighters to retreat. One firefighter suffered minor injuries but no civilians were hurt.

“Our men were doing an interior attack at the time. However, unfortunately, the roof collapsed in the rear of the building and that’s due to the extent of the fire,” Roman Clark of the BCFD said.

As the business went up in flames, so did the hard work, hopes and dreams of Raj Bommakanti.

“I’m glad nothing else is damaged on the sides, other buildings,” Bommakanti said.

He’d just locked up and left his store four hours earlier. Then came the thick smoke and heavy fire.

“They had to break out windows,” one witness said. “Smoke was coming out everywhere.”

Soon the building became unstable. When the roof collapsed, firefighters were told to get out of the building.

“I heard that fire truck saying ‘Abandon! Abandon! Charlie! Charlie! The roof caved in,’” a witness said.

Slideshow: Crews Battle Fells Point Fire

The fire was put out on the second floor but not before spreading to the third floor.

Three main streets near the fire were closed for rush hour.

A former social hall, the building is large and filled with confined spaces. That made for a difficult fire to fight.

Bommakanti used to travel as a biotech researcher. Six years ago, after years of saving, he opened the liquor store so he wouldn’t be away from home.

“I’m glad nothing else is damaged on the sides, other buildings,” he said.

Fells Point Bar and Liquors is dealing with a lot. The employees who worked here are now out of a job. And there’s concern among business owners because it’s the second major fire this year.

In June, a grocery store in Fells Point went up in flames.

Charla Faddoul owns the Tennis Shoe Warehouse, a landmark on South Broadway.

“We are all as a business very scared that something might be happening that we are unaware of,” Faddoul said.

Bommakanti said he was fully stocked for the Fells Point Festival. He does have insurance but is unsure to what extent he will be covered.

The three alarms mobilized more than 90 firefighters. It took firefighters two and a half hours to get the fire under control.

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