D.C. warehouse fire near Gallaudet University

Photo: Jummy Olabanji/WJLA

A warehouse in northeast Washington with a history dating back to 1871 is nothing more than ruins tonight, after a two-alarm fire that started late Wednesday night.

And several businesses are shut down as a result.

Firefighters worked all night to knock down the flames at the warehouse off Florida Avenue NE, which is next to the Union Market that recently opened with new specialty-food stores.

The Florida Avenue district near Gallaudet University is home to dozens of mainly immigrant businesses that provide restaurants with food and street vendors with merchandise.

Union Market is the first place targeting new residents of a surrounding neighborhood that's booming with new construction, particularly upscale residential.

Officials say the fire appears to have started just before 10 p.m. Wednesday night. They believe it started at a merchandise wholesale store and quickly spread to several other businesses and buildings.

Thursday afternoon, D.C. fire crews were still putting out hot spots in the smoldering building.

Bill Hartman owns Hartman Meat Company, located right behind the burning building.

He says when he got to work at 4:30 a.m., he thought it was his business that was on fire.

“When we walked around the corner it was still burning, still smoking, the buildings were a mess,” he says.

Police blocked off several streets around the market. Officials say it took more than five hours to put the fire out completely.

As a safety precaution, crews shut off the power supply to many of the businesses, including Hartman's.

“We needed electricity for the phone system, for the lights, for the computers, so we had to run out and get a generator to keep things going,” he says.

After the firefighters left the scene, store owners didn’t know when they could go back into their stores.

The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs says some of the buildings are structurally compromised.