The first fire started Monday afternoon in the adult district of Baltimore, also known as “the block.” The block consists of adult book stores and shabby strip clubs like Norma Jeans and Hustler. The fire sent employees of these establishments running out into the bitter cold to escape the flames, fleeing from imminent danger.
In less than 24 hours, early Tuesday morning, a new 5-alarm fire broke out in Mount Vernon, Baltimore’s cultural district, which is just about five blocks north of Monday’s fire in the adult district.
The adult district fire started on the north side of the 400 block of Baltimore, and it has shut down the entire area. The Baltimore Sun reported that the fire started specifically at Gayety Show World. The area ablaze is in close proximity to City Hall and other governmental locations. Thick dark smoke filled the sky. The day’s weather didn’t help the situation any with high wind gusts. There was black smoke everywhere, with the wind propelling the smell and ash throughout the area blanketing the sky.
The Mount Vernon fire started at about 1:30 a.m. originally as a 2-alarm fire but quickly turned into a 5-alarm. The building is located in the 800 block of N. Charles Street across from Mount Vernon Place. Many of the same firefighters who battled the adult district fire again had to report for duty and respond to the Mount Vernon fire as well. Firefighters were faced with freezing weather which froze their hoses and iced the sidewalks flowing with water from their efforts to douse the flames. They had to use fire trucks as railings to maneuver around the area without slipping. Firefighters slipped on the ice as they tried to make their way around..
Both fires spread rapidly, but neither rivals that of the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904, which destroyed over 1,500 buildings. The adult district fire engulfed four buildings. The fire also claimed Crazy John’s, a very popular location on the block. Patrons of adjacent strip clubs would stop in to grab a bite after fun times on the block. The Mount Vernon fire has affected My Thai, a very popular restaurant in the downtown area where I myself visited frequently for lunch.
The strippers from the clubs on the blocks that were affected by this fire were left no choice but to run out of the buildings stark naked, some with clothes in their hands dressing right outside in 30-degree weather.
The adult district fire started right before rush hour and continued into rush hour and after. The downtown Baltimore area is already a heavy traffic zone between the hours of about 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.. With blocked streets and spectators lining the streets, locals were expecting a complete traffic nightmare.
I work about four blocks from the location of the fire, and I have to say that the fire department as well as law enforcement did an amazing job controlling the flow of traffic and rerouting traffic that would usually travel through the streets affected by the 5-alarm fire. Police diverted traffic away from the block and commuters were very patient and adhered to the safety measures and procedures implemented by traffic police.
Traffic this morning in the cultural district is sure to be chaotic as the cultural district is a main entryway for people who work downtown, and is one of the more congested areas during morning rush hour. I usually park in the garage one block east of the area affected, and my office is one block south of the fire location. Commuters need to avoid the area altogether as many of the streets are blocked. Alternate parking arrangements are also in order.
The biggest problem created for downtown workers by the adult district fire was the closure of nearby areas due to safety concerns. Some of the areas that were closed were parking garages which left a large amount of people stranded in the downtown area Monday evening with nowhere to go and no way to get there.
Julie Scharper and Justin Fenton, “City firefighters try to control massive blaze on The Block” baltimoresun.com
Julie Scharper, “Five-alarm fire damages restaurants near Mount Vernon Place” baltimoresun.com