By Robert Stoneback
The Daily Item
BLOOMSBURG — A midday Thursday fire at the Moose Exchange on West Main Street caused untold damage to the building and 10 tenant spaces while backing up traffic along Route 11.
The fire originated in the back of the first floor, in an area referred to as “the DJ closet,” said Oren Helbok, executive director of the Moose Exchange, located at 203 West Main Street.
Bob Rupp, Bloomsburg Fire Department chief, said the state fire marshal was listing the cause as undetermined. “There’s too much damage in the room,” Rupp said. The fire was not suspicious and was likely electrical in nature, Rupp said, but finding the exact cause would be almost impossible at this point.
“It’s totally destroyed,” Rupp said of the building. “I don’t know exactly what the value of the building is and the contents ... but probably well over $100,000” in damages.
No firefighters or civilians were seriously injured or required medical attention, Rupp said. Firefighters were at the scene until about 8:20 p.m.
Helbok said the building is insured.
While people were in the building at the time of the fire, Helbok said all those that he knew of made it out safely. Exchange janitor Bobby Brown was being treated for smoke inhalation in an ambulance. Helbok said he and Brown fought the fire when they first noticed it. Brown was still able to sit upright while being treated, Helbok said.
The call for emergency responders went out shortly before noon. Emergency responders closed West Main Street from Railroad Street to Market Street.
About 10 tenants rent space from the exchange, all artists or small retailers.
Smoke billowed out of windows in the exchange’s first and second floors and firefighters broke open windows with poles to let the smoke out.
A large crowd gathered across the street to watch the scene, with many taking pictures or video using cell phones or tablets.
PennDOT closed Main Street — Route 11 through Bloomsburg — during the fire fight.
Nate Charles and Veronica Gordon, co-owners of the Exchange store Legendary Comics and Tea Room, were at the scene of the fire. As far as they knew, all of their staff had made it out safely.
“We’re glad everyone’s safe and we’re waiting to hear the extent of the damages,” Charles said. The store has liability insurance, he said, though they won’t have an estimate on damages until later.
Friends offered support to Gordon and Charles right after they heard of the fire. “There’s been a lot of people reaching out and asking what they can do,” Charles said.
Bloomsburg resident Joe Zook heard about the fire after he received a text from his wife. They are members of the Mountain Winds Budo dojo, located in the second floor of the Moose Exchange.
“We were just there (at the Exchange) the other day for bowling,” he said.
The building had been the Bloomsburg Moose Lodge for 50 years prior to Helbok turning it into the Moose Exchange in January 2010.
Mahoning Township’s East End Fire Company battled the blaze with firefighters from Espy, Bloomsburg, Buckhorn, Montour Township, Catawissa, Millville, Mifflinville, Berwick and Lightstreet. Danville Ambulance Service also responded.
Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.