The iconic Anderson Hardware & Storage store on Route 40 in Joppa was destroyed Tuesday evening by a fire that caused an estimated $1 million damage before it was brought under control by about 80 firefighters.
Officials from the first fire company on the scene said the blaze escalated to the equivalent of three alarms, requiring equipment from Harford and Baltimore counties to put it out.
State fire marshals said Wednesday the cause of the fire in the 900 block of Pulaski Highway remained under investigation.
"It's a really old building, so we have to be cognizant of the structure," Deputy Chief State Fire Marshal John Wagner said from the scene of the fire Wednesday morning.
He said he did not know if the building is salvageable.
The business was blocked off with police tape as fire and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officials worked the scene Wednesday morning. Neighbors and friends of the owners also milled around the grounds.
No civilians were injured in the fire, which forced the closure of Route 40 in both directions at the end of Tuesday evening's rush hour.
At least two firefighters were injured, however, and one required transport to a regional burn center with what were described as "minor burns," according to the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company. The other firefighter was taken to a local hospital with unspecified injuries.
None of the firefighters' injuries were life threatening, Jason Freund, assistant chief with Joppa-Magnolia, said at the scene.
Emergency calls for the fire began shortly before 6:30 p.m. Tuesday; Freund said "multiple calls" were received.
The first units to arrive reported smoke through the roof of the two-story building, according to monitored emergency radio broadcasts. A call also went out for a hazardous materials team. Freund said the store was closed when the fire broke out.
Firefighters were ordered to "evacuate the building" at 6:45 p.m.
Around the same time, a "May Day" was broadcast on emergency radio frequencies for at least one missing firefighter, according to the Harford Fire Blog on Facebook. It was subsequently reported everyone involved with battling the fire had been accounted for.
Personnel remained on the scene fighting the fire as darkness fell.
"We're going to be here for several more hours," Freund said.
A column of smoke billowed into the blue evening sky and could be seen from more than a mile away along Route 40. The highway was closed between Joppa Road and Route 152 (Magnolia Road), and onlookers gathered across the road from the hardware store taking pictures and video with their phones.
Amanda Lora, 20, of Edgewood, was driving home on Route 40 when she saw the smoke coming from the hardware store.
She had her boyfriend's aunt, Kathy Torres, also of Edgewood, and Torres' children, Eloise Zabala, 9, Carmela Zabala, 7, and Shanelle Torres, 11, in the car with her.
They sat in the car in a parking lot across the highway, watching the smoke billowing.
"It was just a little bit of smoke at first," Lora said.