Incense starts Austin blaze

Published 11:25 am Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Plastic covers the door, and the windows are blackened at the Sako African Food Market on Fourth Avenue NE in downtown Austin. A fire ravaged the building late Monday night. -- Eric Johnson/

Businesses damaged, but blaze could have been worse

The Austin Fire Department prevented what could have been a disaster for eight Austin downtown businesses.

The AFD contained a blaze — started by incense and chemicals — to the Sako African Food Market at 107 Fourth Ave. NE, and heavy smoke damage to two adjacent businesses. The fire, which started after 10 Monday night, destroyed much of the building and its retail items, and caused heavy smoke damage to

Interior Design Studio and Christopher Lee Photography. However, seven businesses are connected to Sako, including the Paramount Theatre at the far east end.

Email newsletter signup

“People were a little nervous after the other instance on Main Street,” said Christopher Lee owner Chris Iverson, referring to a January 2009 fire caused by arson which destroyed several businesses on Main Street.

While Iverson said most of the damage to his business was in the basement, the smell of smoke lingers strongly on the main level.

“Once you walk outside and come back in, it smells like it’s mesquite grilled,” he said. “But it could have been a lot worse.”

He said he got all of his cameras out before they were damaged, but the basement, shared with Interior Design, is filled with carpet samples, cloth, fabrics and other items which absorb smoke.

“It smells horrible,” Interior Design co-owner Barb Mitchell said this morning. “I haven’t contacted my insurance agent yet, but that’s next on my list.”

Mitchell said they are airing out the business to get it “tolerable.” Both Iverson and Mitchell are insured against fire damage.

The Mower County Auditor-Treasurer’s office lists the Sako property owner as Constantine Lecakis, of Austin, who wasn’t available for comment Tuesday morning.

The AFD received a call at 10:45 p.m. from a passerby who noticed the fire from the street.

Nobody was injured or treated for smoke inhalation, as no one was inside Sako or the nearby businesses when the fire erupted.

Officials have not spoken to the company that insured Sako or determined any damage estimates for Sako or the adjacent businesses.

While firefighters extinguished the blaze quickly, they remained on scene for about an hour and a half, as retail products were still hot and continued to smolder, Healey added.

Look to as this story develops.