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Four-alarm fire tears through Lealman commercial building

Onlookers watch as firefighters battle a four-alarm fire Tuesday night that engulfed a warehouse in flames at 3120 46th Ave. N in St. Petersburg.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

Onlookers watch as firefighters battle a four-alarm fire Tuesday night that engulfed a warehouse in flames at 3120 46th Ave. N in St. Petersburg.

LEALMAN — All Lisa Maddux wanted to know Tuesday night was how bad her building had been damaged.

But when firefighters said it would be hours until she could get inside, all Maddux could do was watch as black smoke poured from the large commercial building she and her husband have owned for 10 years.

She shook her head.

About 30 people depend on the businesses in the building for their livelihood, she said.

"It's really a shame," she said. "I know some of them are going to be really devastated."

For hours Tuesday night, firefighters battled the blaze at Maddux's building at 3120 46th Ave. N. It started about 8 p.m.

One firefighter was taken to a hospital for a cut on his hand. He was treated and released. No other injuries were reported.

Maddux said there were six businesses in the 34,000-square-foot building, including two of her own, Global Stone Project Enterprise, which is a marble and granite importer; and Commercial Stone Fabricators.

The building also houses a charity, a furniture business, a cabinet fabricator and an upholsterer, she said.

The Pinellas property appraiser's office values the building at just more than $1 million. Fire officials said it was a total loss.

More than 40 fire units were summoned to the scene to help battle a blaze that tore through the roof and would not go down easy. There were reports of explosions coming from inside.

Fire officials said crews from Lealman, St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park, Seminole and Gulfport responded to the blaze.

Lealman Fire Chief Richard Graham said chemicals at the upholstery business contributed to the expansion of the fire.

"Once that started to catch fire, it just took off," he said. "The roof collapsed in minutes."

Shortly after, the blaze was upgraded to a four- alarm fire.

Crews were still at the fire at midnight and expected to be there all night cleaning up.

They did not know what started the fire.

Maddux said she left work about 6 p.m. and got a call about two hours later from the alarm company. When she and her husband arrived, they saw the building in flames, she said. "This is a really bad fire," she said. "We don't know what happened."

Maddux said the blaze was devastating to many people. "We just finished remodeling our showroom," she said. "Our employees will be really shocked when they get in tomorrow morning."

Steve Roe, owner of Steve's Restaurant Upholstery, which is housed in the building, said he was devastated by the fire. He has owned the business since 1996 and has four employees.

"My shop's gone. I'm just trying to think of how I can get back on my feet," said Roe, 42, who has a wife and three children. "I'm just hoping maybe I can start over."

Maddux was recently in the newspaper on a much happier note. Her 7-year-old son, Bruce, got a hole-in-one in an 84-yard hole in a golf tournament.

That moment was far from her mind as she watched her building scorched on Tuesday night.

"There's just so many people that really count on this," she said.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8643.

Four-alarm fire tears through Lealman commercial building 04/14/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 17, 2009 4:41pm]

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