Local photographer Art Sutch found himself only able to field questions and take stock Monday afternoon, after a fire possibly fueled by a cigarette butt turned his downtown business into a smoky wreck Saturday night.
“I’m trying to move on,” Sutch said after working Sunday to clear debris and start an inventory of his losses. “But I have to wait for the insurance agent. … I’m on hold. It’s just going to take time.”
Capital City Fire/Rescue firefighters were called out to the scene of the fire in the 200 block of Seward Street just after 7:30 p.m. Saturday, reportedly by an alert diner across the street at Salt who spotted smoke coming out of the building.
Crews entered the business and found the fire in the wall, said Assistant Fire Chief Ed Quinto. The fire was knocked down and the wall was checked for fire extension. Additional firefighters also checked the second floor for any fire extension and possible occupants.
“The fire actually was in the wall space between the exterior and interior walls,” said Fire Marshal Dan Jager. “It was not electrical.”
As of Monday afternoon, Jager said it was looking like the fire started outside, in the narrow alleyway that runs between two buildings, and burned through into the wall and below the flooring.
The actual cause was not yet known, he said, adding that video footage is still being reviewed.
“It doesn’t appear intentional,” Jager said.
The alleyway appears to have been used in the past as a shelter or a sleeping space, but it is unknown whether someone has been staying in that space recently.
“We need to review the surveillance footage,” Jager said.
Sutch said he had not seen anyone in the alleyway recently, adding it was more likely that someone walking by had flicked a cigarette butt into the space.
Art Sutch Photography was the only business seriously affected by the fire, Jager said, with smoke, fire and water damage from a sprinkler head that was activated. Jager gave a rough estimate of $30,000-$40,000 in damage. The other businesses in the building did have some smoke damage, he said, mostly odor with some soot. Any structural damage was confined to the one wall.
“The fire didn’t have a chance to spread, which was good,” Jager said. “I definitely want to give thanks to whoever saw the smoke and called it it in. It definitely made a big difference.”
Sutch said he was still processing his losses, estimating $3,000 at least for one wall of inventory alone.
“Luckily, my personal gear was at my studio, but my printers, my scanners, I’ve lost all that,” he said. “I want to reopen, but I can’t afford to if I have to absorb a big chunk of this loss. …. I’ll have to look at the financial aspects.”
Want to help Art Sutch’s photography shop? His friends and family started this GoFundMe page to get the business back up and running.
Reporter Liz Kellar can be reached at 523-2246 or firstname.lastname@example.org.