An early morning blaze Wednesday destroyed a 31st Street television repair shop and a storage facility for an electrical contractor.
When city firefighters arrived at West Chestnut Avenue and 31st Street just before 4 a.m. Wednesday, the roof of The TV Shop was engulfed in flames, Altoona Fire Inspector Mike Tofano said.
Neighbor John Osmolinski, 86, recalled waking up at about 3:45 a.m. and thinking he had left a light on. When he walked to the front of his house on West Chestnut Avenue, which faces The TV Shop, he saw 7-foot flames lapping up from the building's pitched roof, covering about a 15-foot area toward the 31st Street side of the building.
"It was bad," Osmolinski said.
Osmolinski said he was thankful for the earlier rain because of the tall oak tree with branches that extend over the burned building's roof. Had the tree been dry, it might have caught fire and threatened other homes on the street, Osmolinski guessed.
Tofano said an initial crew of 13 firefighters responded to the fire at 3:40 a.m. with another eight men called in to assist. It took about an hour for firefighters to put out the blaze.
The TV Shop owner, Howard Kerr, was in Ohio early Wednesday, according to the company's Indiana, Pa., office, and his brother, Greg Kerr, did arrive at the burned out 31st Street shop just after noon Wednesday. Kerr declined comment until he had a chance to talk with the building's owner and get more information about the fire.
The building is owned by Adams Electric, which used part of the building as storage and is located next door. Brad Mikolajczyk, son of Adams Electric owner Jerry Mikolajczyk, declined to comment on the fire but said the longtime business remains open.
"We're fully operational right now," Brad Mikolajczyk said.
The cause of the fire was still under investigation but Tofano said he would likely have more information today. The building is a total loss, and damage is estimated, minus the contents of the two businesses, to be between $60,000 and $80,000, he said.
Wednesday's fire is the third in Altoona since Sunday night when two homes on the 300 block of Lexington Avenue and a three-story commercial building at 18th Street and 13th Avenue burned within hours of each other.
The fire that destroyed 301 and 303 Lexington Ave. was accidental, and Tofano said an overheated, exterior air conditioner unit was to blame. The 18th Street fire, which destroyed several antique vehicles owned by Lee Papadeas, remains under investigation.
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.