The Baltimore City Fire Department was called to free book outlet The Book Thing at about 5 a.m. for a report of a fire. The fire in the Abell warehouse was under control shortly after arrival, executive director Russell Wattenberg said as he stood in smoke-scented water and literature in the warehouse's back room, but he is still puzzled by the cause.
"They're investigating," he said. "We're devastated. We're not even sure what the insurance will cover as all the books were free."
Outside, neighbors milled around the piles of scorched magazines and books whose odor wafted through the morning air.
"It's horrible," said Anna, an Abell Avenue resident who did not give her last name. "I hope they can reopen."
The Book Thing moved to its current location more than a decade ago after vacating its original spot at 27th and Charles streets, according to Wattenberg, and housed thousands of books.
"I intend to rebuild," Wattenberg said. "I just don't know when. The garage door alone is going to cost thousands to replace. We're not sure what we're going to do. We love the neighborhood and hope we can come back after this."