Frager's fire burns historic hardware store

Photo: Brianne Carter/ABC7

A search for answers has begun after Capitol Hill's iconic Frager's Hardware was all but destroyed by a massive fire Wednesday night.

D.C. Fire investigators remain on the scene of last night's 4-alarm fire, hours after flames erupted at the Pennsylvania Avenue SE staple.

The store, which was established in 1920, is a popular spot for presidents and is often an area to stage political events.

John Weintraub, one of the owners of Frager's, says the fire started in a lumber area on the 11th Street side of the store. He says a customer alerted store employees to smoke coming from the area.

"I grabbed a fire extinguisher, but once I got out there, flames were shooting up the side of the building," Weintraub said.

Two hundred firefighters and 50 trucks were called in to fight the blaze that eventually reduced the historic store to ashes. The fire wasn't declared under control until about 11 p.m. Wednesday, several hours after it originally broke out.

Two of the firefighters who fought the fire suffered minor injuries.

Neighbors and longtime residents of both Capitol Hill and Washington as a whole have taken to the streets and to Twitter to mourn the loss of a neighborhood staple.

"Frager's just had everything," Capitol Hill resident Ronanta Hewitt said. "It's really sad that it burned right before my eyes."

Meanwhile, Frager's employees said on their Twitter page that they're grateful for the work of the firefighters and the community.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the 2 Firemen who were injured fighting the fire at Frager's.Last reports indicate they are doing well.

— Frager's Hardware (@Fragers) June 6, 2013

Thick smoke was visible all over the region; from Arlington National Cemetery, Nationals Park, Logan Circle, and even Tenleytown and far Northwest D.C.

On Thursday, fire officials said it may be weeks until the cause of the fire is known.

Store employees were on hand to greet and hug customers.

"We're going to be able to continue their salary for while so they're not going to be out on the street,” Weintraub says. “We're hopefully going to rebuild."