Once again, another devastating fire struck the Edmondson Village Shopping Center in west Baltimore. Since its opening in 1947 six major fires have struck this historic shopping center located in the heart of Edmondson Village. The last one was a 3-alarm fire that destroyed nine stores on November 22, 2019. Those stores have since been torn down and have yet to be rebuilt. This latest one occurred on January 23, 2021 around 2200 hours. Fire Communications started receiving 911 calls reporting smoke at the top of several stores including the Family Dollar Store in the shopping center.
Engine 53, stationed right across the street from the shopping center, arrived first and reported smoke showing from the ridge line above several stores. As other units arrived they began dropping lines and setting up ladders. Truck companies began forcing entry into the closed and secured stores. Battalion Chief 3, Joe Bloom arrived and took command. Seeing iron grates and secured overhead roll-up doors on all of the stores he special called Rescue 1 to assist with forcible entry. As truck companies began opening up the boarded up dormer windows on the roof heavy black smoke billowed from the openings. Chief Bloom called for a working fire assignment followed quickly by a second alarm and a special call for Tower 81.
As with the two previous fires the deep seated fire was in the void space in the false gable roof above the storefronts and just travelled the whole length across several stores before it hit the firewalls at each end. The rear of the stores were about 100’ deep and one story high and only accessible via a narrow roadway behind the stores. And once again companies in the rear were having trouble breaching the heavily secured steel doors. Around this time fire was breaking through the rooves of several stores as ladder pipes were being placed in service.
Another special call was placed about 20 minutes into the incident bringing several more engine companies to supplement the low water supply in the area. Among these were Engine and Truck 13 from the Baltimore County Westview station along with their Battalion Chief 22. Low water pressure was hampering the firefighting efforts and more special calls brought some more county units to the scene, including several engines from Catonsville and Woodlawn. Another special call brought Pikesville Volunteer’s Tower 323.
Temperatures were in the 20’s this night and as water was being poured onto the fire it quickly began freezing everywhere in the parking lot around the building site.
As the fire was being contained around 0230 hours on Sunday morning a potentially dangerous situation unfolded. Somehow a drunken driver managed to drive past all of the police, fire apparatus and hoses in the adjacent street and drove into the parking lot damaging hoses and equipment before coming to rest next to the fire engines at the front of the fire building. He was quickly detained and arrested at the scene by Baltimore Police. Luckily no one was injured in the accident.
The fire was brought under control around 0330 hours and most units were gone by sunrise. A few units remained on fire watch throughout the rest of the night. Around 0900 hours fire was spotted at the roof of one of the stores and was quickly put out by the companies on the scene.
90 firefighters with 30 pieces of apparatus battled the fire and no injuries were reported. Fire Investigation was also on the scene to determine the cause. The fire this time involved 4 stores, one of which was vacant at the time.