What's next for residents and businesses after Chestnut Street fire

- Fire investigators have not yet determined the cause of a massive blaze that gutted several buildings along the 200 block of Chestnut Street in Old City early Sunday morning.

After the city’s department of Licenses and Inspections ruled 239 Chestnut “imminently dangerous,” and set for demolition, investigators used a lift to peer into it and neighboring structures Monday, while some business owners on the block wondered, what’s next?

“We are just trying to get answers to a bunch of questions that we don’t know yet,” said Chris Young, who owns the Little Lion restaurant on Chestnut at Third.

He was allowed to take a quick tour of the damage Monday; nothing structural, minimal smoke, but lots of water everywhere.

With utilities cut off, he and his 80 employees are out of work for a while, but he remains optimistic. When asked if he’ll find a way to survive, he quickly responded, “Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Everybody will.”

The massive fire raged out of control for more than four hours early Sunday morning, sending scores of apartment dwellers and guests at a Best Western hotel scurrying into the pre-dawn chill. 

“All of a sudden I felt like we were surrounded by a huge cloud of smoke,” said Lisa Mare Palacio. “We couldn’t see. Everyone’s coughing.”

“Left in a little bit of a panic,” said Antonio Sapienza, “so my phone, wallet and keys— everything is still in the room. So in order to get home and drive home we need to get what was left in there.”

He was not alone.

Throughout the day Monday hotel guests— some still fighting back tears after their frightening ordeal— waited for hotel employees to bring out their belongings— at least what could be salvaged. 

Dong Li and his family were here from China and had planned to be in Washington by now. Hotel workers were able to retrieve most of their things.

“They are working very, very hard, looking for us,” said Li. “They are looking, yes.”

Kelly Landman was in town for her cousin’s wedding. She, too, got back most of her belongings. She had high praise for those who helped fire victims Sunday morning.

“We are incredibly blessed,” Said Landman. “I consider us so fortunate for having gotten everybody out.”
 

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