Fire destroys iconic Fall River hardware store; Owner rescues pet birds

Firefighters are battling a fire at a Fall River hardware store Friday, Feb. 2, 2018 (Photo courtesy ofJoey LeBlanc)

A Fall River hardware store that's been in business since the 1930s was destroyed by fire Friday afternoon.

"It was my life. That's why I make my living," said Manuel Botelho, who has owned Flint Hardware for the last 26 years.

Photos taken at the scene around 4 p.m. show flames and heavy smoke pouring from the store, which is located at 1338 Pleasant St.

When NBC 10 News arrived at the scene, a portion of the roof fell in and the rest of the structure collapsed. A brick frame of the building, along with rubble, was all that remained.

Other businesses and apartment buildings surround the store, with a least one sustaining damage. Nearby homes were evacuated as a precaution.

Botelho made it out safely and rescued two of his pet birds, which he keeps in the store. However, he lost a cat in the fire.

Botelho said a bystander alerted him of the blaze.

"A lady walked down the street saw the smoke coming out of the side of the building," he said.

Patricia Otis and her daughter were there from the start, when it just started as smoke.

"They got the animals out and the wind just seemed like it took off," Otis told NBC 10. " The flames -- it was so fast. It was incredible."

Chief John Lynch of the Fall River Fire Department shared similar sentiments.

"The wind fanned the fire immensely," he said, adding that there are "a lot of flammables" and many combustibles in most hardware stores, which likely exacerbated the fire.

A firefighter was hit in the face with debris, but the chief said he should be OK. No one else was hurt, according to authorities.

Firefighters continued to work hot spots as of 10 p.m. and they are expected to return to the scene Saturday morning.

Meanwhile, officials are asking the public to stay out of the area as they detour traffic.

A cause has not been determined, but authorities believe the fire started in the roof.

Botelho said he thinks it might have started in the heating system. He's heartbroken that his store literally went up in flames.

"I said, 'That is the end.' And that is what it is, unfortunately," Botelho said.

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