It was nearing lunchtime on the Downtown Mall when smoke began pouring out of the building that houses Ike’s Underground Vintage Clothing and Strange Cargo, Miso Sweet and Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar.
Next door at OpenQ, CEO Otavio Freire was in his office, which “filled up very quickly with smoke,” he says. “The smoke was coming in through the brick wall.”
The Charlottesville Fire Department received a call around 11:45am to 414 E. Main St., says Captain Joe Phillips. “A crew arrived to find a basement fire” that was quickly put out, he says.
Even after eight fire trucks and vehicles pulled onto the mall, black smoke was seen coming out of Twisted Branch’s second-floor windows.
Everyone in those buildings and in buildings on the south side of the 400 block of the mall was evacuated, and no one was injured, says Phillips.
The cause is under investigation, but firefighters were overheard saying an electrical fire started in the basement at Ike’s.
The building was the scene of a small fire in 2006 shortly after Eppie’s opened in the space where Miso Sweet is now located. “We were doing our own laundry to save money, and some clean rags—in a laundry bag, but still hot from the dryer—spontaneously combusted,” says Eppie’s owner Dan Epstein.
“We were lucky,” he says, because the bag was dropped at the front door on a Sunday and put out within about 10 minutes. If it had been anywhere else in the building, it would have been a different story, he says.
—with additional reporting by Jessica Luck and Melissa Angell