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Two-alarm fire in Remington hits art gallery, auto body shops

A two-alarm fire engulfed a building containing several auto repair shops and the artist gallery Open Space in Baltimore's Remington neighborhood Wednesday night.

One firefighter was sent to the hospital for minor injuries, and firefighters were evacuated after a portion of the building collapsed.

The fire was reported about 6:30 p.m. and was still active as of 9 p.m. The building, at 2720 Sisson Street, also contains 22 apartments, but no residents were reported injured.

Baltimore Fire Department spokesman Roman Clark said firefighters were trying to contain the blaze to the side of the building that housed four auto body shops. He was unsure whether the fire had spread to Open Space.

Clark described it as a "labor-intensive" fire to control and said a Hazmat unit had been requested because the auto repair shops contained materials like gasoline and oil.

Mohsin Rehman was waiting to pick up his Honda S 2000 after repairs were done at the Baltimore Body Shop when he smelled smoke. When he came outside the shop, he said, he saw flames shooting from the roof.

"They've had it for three weeks. He was just doing the last touches," he said, referring to his car. In addition to his Honda, Rehman said, his rental car was also parked inside the shop. "Hopefully, it isn't charcoal," he said.

Rehman watched as firefighters on a least five ladder trucks worked to douse the flames, which produced odorous, thick black smoke that drifted over nearby Interstate 83. Baltimore police had blocked off the northbound exit for 28th Street where the smoke had billowed.

Lawrence Kolitas, the owner of the Clearview Auto Glass and Repair watched and waited for word about his business, which opened at the Remington location a year ago. He said he had been remodeling his office.

"That building ain't going to be no good," he said. But Kolitas seemed calm as he waited behind yellow police tape with his two young sons.

"You can go out and buy new stuff," he said.

Among the bystanders were several residents of the Open Space apartments which occupy the second floor, above commercial businesses. A few residents had managed to grab bags, and some had pets, including small dogs, as they waited and watched smoke pour from the roof.

A number of residents from the neighborhood watched from their front steps, and some took pictures with their phones.

Elmer Robinson, 21, said he saw tall flames coming from the roof of the building.

"It was bad," he said, gesturing with his hand to indicate the height of the flames. "I'm just glad that nobody got [seriously] hurt."

Baltimore Sun reporter Yvonne Wenger contributed to this article.

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