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A Friday evening fire that sent thick, black smoke into the southern Danville skyline damaged four stores at Ballou Park Shopping Center.
Crews from the Danville Fire Department responded at about 5:30 p.m. to the reported blaze at Roses Express in the shopping center located at 653 W. Main St.
When firefighters arrived, they found light smoke coming from the front door, but that quickly changed into a heavier and darker cloud as flames were engulfing the inside of the business, battalion chief F.D. Fowler reported in a news release.
In general, a rapid expansion of fire — and burning of different materials — causes smoke to change colors.
“It was a lot of plastics and stuff in there,” battalion chief Tommy Napier explained to the Register & Bee in a phone interview Saturday morning.
Roses suffered the most severe damage from the fire, but three other businesses — Dollar General, ColorTyme and Charms — sustained smoke, heat and water damage also.
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Aside from fire scene and danger tape placed in front of the businesses, little damage was observed from outside Saturday morning.
However, Napier explained a view from above — perhaps from a drone — would show a very different picture of the destruction.
“It did a fair amount of damage,” he explained, noting flames burned through the roof.
While workers placed wooden boards on windows Saturday morning, a lone fire engine stopped by the scene shortly before 9 a.m. Three firefighters appeared to conduct a quick walk around before departing.
Other stores — the shopping center also is home to Food Lion — were returning to normal operations Saturday after the Friday evening blaze forced closures.
The fire drew many onlookers by about 6 p.m. Friday, many with cellphones out capturing the unfolding event. A ladder truck positioned in front of the business was spraying water on the flames from above, as thick smoke poured from a rear side bay of one of the businesses.
Danville Police Department vehicles were positioned at the entrances to the center not allowing vehicles to enter while firefighters battled the flames Friday evening.
This blaze and resulting damage is “pretty close to the same” as another fire that hit the opposite end of the shopping center sometime around 2008, Napier said.
That nighttime fire sent flames shooting into the sky and gutted at least one business.
Members of the Danville Fire Marshal’s Office — along with a Virginia State Police investigator — were on scene Friday. Danville investigators likely will return early next week to start a probe into the fire’s origin, Napier said.
Fire crews were there for 5 1/2 hours Friday. In all, five engines, two ladder trucks, a safety officer and a battalion chief worked the fire, Fowler’s news release stated. In addition to police, the Danville Life Saving Crew and Danville Utilities also responded to assist.
There were no injuries reported.