Downtown fire damages stores

Best of the West fire
damages nearby stores.
Sunday, March 20, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:46 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

A fire broke out in the basement of the Best of the West store at 27 N. Tenth St. on Saturday evening. Fire officials said three other buildings sustained smoke damage.

Battalion Chief Steve Sapp of the Columbia Fire Department said the original call came from the Ragtag Cinemacafe at about 8 p.m.

“There was smoke coming from the entrance of the Ragtag, the insurance agency and the law offices,” Sapp said. Heavy smoke poured into the alley behind the entrance to the Odd Fellows Temple.

Fire crews forced their way into Stuart Insurance Agency at Tenth and Walnut streets.

“It was a difficult fire to find,” Sapp said, adding the smoke was so thick that he could only see about 2 to 3 feet in front of him.

“Primarily the damage is smoke damage,” Sapp said. “We believe the fire stayed in the basement.”

The Ragtag Cinemacafe, the Captain’s Quarters, Best of the West and Stuart Insurance Agency all sustained some degree of smoke damage, Sapp said.

“We didn’t sustain any smoke damage,” said Bill Orr, an attorney whose law office is located next to the Ragtag at 21 N. Tenth St.

“These offices used to be government offices,” Stuart Insurance owner Ann Bell said. “They were all connected back then.”

Don Hart, the owner of Best of the West, was at the scene with his family.

His son, Joshua Hart, called the fire “a very devastating blow to a small family business like ours.”

No one was injured.

Eight trucks and about 40 firefighters were called to the two-alarm fire. Crews used fans to clear the smoke.

Sapp assured families of the businesses they would be able to access their property Saturday night. Investigators were still trying to determine how the fire started at press time.

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