A six-alarm fire damaged multiple businesses in the Belle View Shopping Center early Monday morning.
The fire was called in shortly after midnight, and appears to have broken out in the rear of the east side of the shopping shopping center near a cleaners and a recently opened sushi and ramen restaurant. Videos taken from the scene show flames visible on the roof of the center.
One firefighter suffered minor injuries battling the blaze, according to the Fairfax Fire and Rescue Department. No other injuries were reported.
Investigators from the Fairfax County Fire Marshal’s Office remained on the scene Monday morning, and a cause and exact origin of the fire had yet to be determined, according the Fairfax Fire and Rescue Department spokeswoman Ashley Hildebrandt.
The heaviest visible damage appears to be in the rear of the Belleview Cleaners-Launderers and Yido Sushi and Ramen, which opened for business earlier this month. The front entrances those businesses were taped off by fire investigators, but most of owners of the surrounding businesses were able to enter their spaces to assess the damage.
Roy Rogers owner Jason Hunt said his business suffered a roof collapse a well as a lot of smoke and water damage, but did not appear to sustain any damage from the fire itself. But because the power in that wing of the shopping center was cut, it was difficult Hunt and other owners to assess the extent of the damage.
“The hardest part is not knowing,” said Hunt, who noted that his workers had closed the restaurant and left for the night about an hour before the fire was reported. “Luckily nobody was hurt.”
GOLFTEC owner Phil Bowers said his store sustained a great deal of water and smoke damage, but because of the power outage he was not able to get a full picture of the extent. He said he’s most worried about the electronics system used by GOLFTEC, but added that he was somewhat relieved that some property and merchandise were not affected.
“It certainly could have been a lot worse,” Bowers said. “Our damage is significant, but minimized.”
More than 24 units responded to the fire, including some from the City of Alexandria, Fort Belvoir, Arlington County and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Hildebrandt said. The first firefighters at the scene encountered extremely thick smoke, which made it hard to determine exactly where the fire itself was burning, Hildebrandt said.
The extra fire personnel called in by the multiple alarms were required to help search and vent the various businesses in the shopping center, and some 52 doors needed to be breached in the process, Hildebrandt said. While some businesses had damage to their locks only, others had their entire doors smashed, including Tropical Smoothie and the Alexandria Music Company, a longtime tenant in the plaza.
The owner of Dishes of India said his restaurant, which is located in the basement of the center and borders the cleaners, had significant water damage. It’s not the first time Dishes of India and other businesses in the plaza have been affected by a disaster — in 2003 Hurricane Isabel flooded many shops in Belle View, and Dishes of India was forced to close for almost a year.
“We’ve been through this before,” said Dishes of India owner Gopal Bhatt.
Bhatt and restaurant employees stood outside of the shopping center this morning and waited for more information. Bhatt said the situation was out of his hands now.
“You can’t control what happens,” Bhatt said. “You close the door and leave, you go home to sleep.”
Employees from Spokes Etc., Wine and Design, Taekwondo Masters and other businesses were also at the scene assessing damage. Spokes Etc., along with the Alexandria Music Company, each had significant smoke damage, according to employees.
While almost every business in the center was affected by the fire, life went on for a handful on Monday morning. The Safeway and some businesses on the west side of the shopping center were open, with customers going in and out as the cleanup continued on the other side of the plaza.