A five-alarm blaze swept through the Greenway Bowling Center in Glen Burnie yesterday, wiping away a 24-lane duckpin establishment of nearly 40 years, Anne Arundel County fire officials said.
The fire was reported at 4:26 p.m., and when firefighters from the Glen Burnie station half a block away arrived, flames were shooting through the wooden roof. Two of the more than 100 firefighters sustained minor injuries and were treated on the scene, but there were no other injuries.
Flames shot more than 30 feet into the air, and the smoke could be seen for miles. The blaze spread quickly through the frame building despite the five hoses firefighters trained on it.
The blaze near Crain Highway and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard drew more than 2,000 onlookers and snarled traffic on nearby roads, where some traffic lights were out.
Greenway manager Frank Ladanyi said the bowling alley, which had been packed with children earlier in the day, was nearly empty. He said that he tried to return to the building after making sure everyone was out but that the smoke was too dense.
"We were getting ready for our night leagues," he said.
Mr. Ladanyi said he thinks the fire started in the second-floor ceiling and, judging from the smell, might have been electrical.
Fire Department Battalion Chief Gary Sheckells said the cause of the blaze is under investigation. It is believed to have started on the second floor, he said. "Probably the entire building is going to be history," Chief Sheckells said.
The rear wall and roof collapsed shortly before 6 p.m., a few minutes after the fifth alarm was sounded.
Mike Williams, an Anne Arundel County building inspection supervisor, said he did not expect to be able to get inside before midnight to ascertain whether the structure would have to be torn down.
The building is owned by the family of G. Nelson Davis, who had it constructed in 1954, near one of the county's busiest areas, said Ed Cackoski, one of the dozen family members who own it. A charter bus service formerly occupied the site.
Mr. Cackoski said he expected the structure and its contents to be lost. Owners had added keno this year and in recent years had added the signature green awning and made other improvements.
John Corcoran, a past chief of the Glen Burnie Volunteer Fire Company and a former customer, was among spectators.
"Yeah, the people are going to miss it. It's the only bowling alley locally," he said.
Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. turned off power and gas to the building.
About 6:30 p.m., Chief Sheckells said firefighters appeared to be preventing the fire from spreading to neighboring buildings.
Psychotherapist William M. Jump, whose office is above the Paul's Pub restaurant on Crain Highway in an adjacent building, watched in horror.
"All my files for all my clients are here," he said.
Word of the fire spread quickly in bowling circles and the community.
"Our children bowled there," said Al Lipin, a former state senator who represented Glen Burnie. "It's just a good community center, where people have enjoyed themselves. It certainly is a tragedy to the business community of Glen Burnie as well. It's been a center of activity that brought a lot of people into Glen Burnie."
The alley, known as a "duckpin house," with 12 lanes upstairs and 12 lanes downstairs, was affiliated with the Greenway East in Baltimore, which closed last month, and the Greenway Bowl Odenton, the site this weekend of a Professional Bowling Association competition.