(BEDFORD)- UPDATE - Bedford Fire Department Chief Jon Wagnor says more than 2,000 gallons of water a minute was pumped on the flames that destroyed George's Gateway, at 2201 M Street, Saturday night.
The hardware store has been a part of Bedford since 1958 and is owned by Tom Bertolino. He bought the store from George Brinegar. Bertolino worked in the store as a teenager. It is unclear if Bertolio will rebuild, Wagnor says.
"Right now, he's pretty upset," Wagnor says. "I talked to him some Saturday night. He is taking this pretty hard. We will just have to wait and see what happens."
More than 100 explosions went off in the west end of the building, releasing putrid smoke. Many of the firefighters were suffering sore throats this morning.
Flames leapt in the air, burning electrical lines and walls began to collapse. Firefighters used the ladder truck which allowed firefighters to douse the falmes from 100-feet above. Off-duty firefighters were called to the scene around 7 p.m.
"It was a dangerous situation," says Wagnor. "There were chemicals, fertilizer and other solvents in the building that exploded."
The state fair marshal arrived on the scene at 10 a.m. this morning and is expected to be there most of the day. Firefighters believe the fire started in the southern part of the building where the loading dock, small machine shop and Just Ask Rental is located.
Wagnor says firefighters fought a tough battle.
"It was one we lost, because the building was destroyed," he says. "But the men gave it all they had. This was a huge fire and a extremely dangerous one. The paints, solvants, fertilizers and flammable items in the storage area in the west end of the building exploding added to the dangers and fed the fire."
Wagnor is saddened this morning because they were not able to save the business.
"It hurts my heart," he says. "This is another economic loss for Bedford. Employees that work there are now looking for work this morning. It saddens me more than words can say."
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