Firefighters battled a three-alarm fire for more than 40 minutes in a strip mall in Hazel Dell Saturday afternoon, and while there were no injuries, at least nine businesses were hit by fire and/or smoke damage.
“It was a very stubborn fire,” said David Schmitke, Fire District 6 spokesman. “We’re lucky to not lose the whole building.”
The fire started around 2 p.m. in Chic Boutique at the Holly Park Shopping Center, 10501 N.E. Highway 99. The flames started from a light fixture, according to Schmitke, and were seen coming from the front of Chic Boutique and from behind the strip mall. The fire spread through a common attic in the shopping center. Power was cut off to the entire strip mall, and Schmitke said a crew will probably remain on scene throughout the night.
Fire District 6 responded, along with Vancouver Fire Department and Clark County Fire and Rescue. There were 12 engines, two tanks, one squad and three battalion chiefs on hand, Schmitke said.
Two employees from Chic Boutique left the store and alerted their neighbors. Julie Lewis, owner of Denim & Frills right next door, had a packed store due to a sale on Saturday. Lewis and her four employees cleared the store and retrieved some personal belongings. Within 10 minutes, their store was filled with smoke and the ceiling was starting to cave in.
“It’s horrible,” said Lewis, who has owned the store for 22 years, all in that same location. “I’m at a complete loss. I can’t imagine anything is going to make it.”
The fire spread to Denim & Frills, and firefighters knocked out all windows to the consignment store to put out the flames. They also knocked out windows of Chic Boutique. Owner Angie Wilson had taken the day off and was out of town when the fire started. Cindy Nortz, Wilson’s mother, came to check on the store after hearing about the fire. Nortz said her daughter has owned the women’s clothing store for about four or five years, and was told it would take about a week until the cause of the fire is determined.
Schmitke said that at least Chic Boutique, Denim & Frills and a chiropractor’s office on the other side of Chic Boutique all suffered fire damage.
David Gregory, manager of Altered Reality Tattoo, wasn’t sure how much damage was done to the shop about two hours after the fire. The shop is next to Denim & Frills, so he expects there’s quite a bit of smoke damage. He and two other artists were tattooing clients when one of the clients got an alert from an emergency app that there were firefighters on their way nearby. They checked outside and saw smoke pouring out of the strip mall a few stores down.
“I grabbed the basics we need to make money — some machines, ink, needles and tubes — and got out of there,” Gregory said.
Stephanie Canton of Vancouver was in the shop having a floral tattoo done when they had to evacuate.
“I didn’t think it was that bad at first,” she said. “Then you get outside and see all that smoke. Then it got scary.”
Steven Berry co-owns Hawaiian Vapor with his mother, Kimberly Newton. The shop is a few stores down from Chic Boutique. More than an hour after the fire was put out, they still weren’t allowed to go into their store, but heard there was “extensive” damage.
“We were told there was a lot of smoke damage,” Berry said. “Then they went in and sprayed with the hose, so I’m sure there’s a lot of water damage, too. Our whole business is electronics, so that’s not good.”
Berry said they opened their store nearly four years ago in the strip mall, and were instantly welcomed by all the other owners, including Lewis.
“We’re all small businesses,” Lewis said. “We’re family-owned businesses.”
Val Williams, an employee at Denim & Frills, said the store also works with local charities regularly, including Northwest Children’s Outreach, God’s Closet and Babies in Need. She said the store donates money and clothes to the nonprofits weekly.
“It’s devastating,” she said. “There are so many families and charities we help out.”