By Edie Gross, The Free Lance-Star
An evening fire in downtown Fredericksburg heavily damaged a Caroline Street apartment and left three pets dead, including a pit bull who had spent the day visiting a local nursing home.
The fire in the third-floor apartment of 710 Caroline St. was reported at 8:09 p.m.
Ben Packett, who lives in an apartment in the building next door, said he and his friends were watching the movie "The Prestige" when they smelled smoke. The group had grilled on their back porch earlier in the evening, and they thought the scent might be coming from there. But the grill was cool.
"We ran out on our deck and turned to the other side and saw smoke rolling out the window" of the apartment next door, said Packett. "In the window, everything was red and flaming."
They called 911 and then ran through their building to make sure it was evacuated. Then they went next door to Old Town Psychic, the business on the ground floor of 710 Caroline St., to warn them, "which was a little ironic," said Packett.
Firefighters arrived in less than a minute, he said.
Katherine Quann was just finishing up a trolley tour when she pulled the vehicle onto Caroline Street and saw a firetruck racing past.
"I thought, 'OK, this isn't good,'" she said. "Then they started breaking glass. It was scary. They were not fooling around."
According to Natatia Bledsoe, spokeswoman for the Fredericksburg police, a full detachment from the city plus an engine and medic crew from Falmouth arrived to find the third-floor apartment kitchen burning and the apartment full of smoke.
Resident Nik Lynch was not home at the time.
Firefighters quickly brought the blaze under control, and damage was primarily confined to the kitchen of the 700-square-foot apartment, Bledsoe said in a statement.
The apartment is uninhabitable. The second-floor apartment and ground-floor business should be habitable by tomorrow or Tuesday, Bledsoe said.
Officials estimate the damage to the building, which dates to 1835, at $75,000.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Lynch was staying with friends last night and planned to contact the Red Cross today. He lost two cats and his dog, Pee Diddle, in the fire.
"He was a sweet dog that spent Saturdays at Carriage Hill Nursing Home," Lynch said. "He was a very popular dog around town."