Frager's Hardware, the quirky, cluttered Capitol Hill institution that catered to everyone from weekend gardeners to U.S. presidents, was engulfed in flames late Wednesday afternoon, with firefighters waging a four-alarm fire as black, white and brown smoke spewed across the neighborhood and blotted out views of the Capitol from the east.
"We don't really know what happened, but everyone got out," Frager's owner John Weintraub told Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells as the lawmaker arrived on the scene. Weintraub said "everyone got out," and all were accounted for among his employees and that he did not know what started the fire.
"It's at least a four-alarm fire, and that's about as big as they get in D.C.," Wells told CQ Roll Call.
The smell of the fire was evident from at least two miles away, and the smoke plumes could be seen from even farther as the main building, which sold everything from mouse traps to brooms and air filters, billowed smoke.
The surrounding crowd of hundreds, ranging among a wide array of ages and races, seemed to be in a state of shock. Many had likely seen such scenes before, as other Capitol Hill landmarks, such as Eastern Market in 2007 and the Tune Inn in 2011, had also burned.
Those institutions, with the support of the community, reopened.