MILFORD, Del. (AP) - A fire Friday afternoon in downtown Milford
damaged several businesses but there were no reports of injuries,
authorities said.
The fire apparently broke out at Wiley's Hardware and Appliances
on Walnut Street about 3 p.m. and spread to adjacent businesses,
including a barber shop, music school, bookstore and church.
Firefighters were still battling three hours later to contain
the blaze, which ravaged much of an entire city block.
"It's pretty well engulfed," said Milford police dispatcher
Danny Stevenson.
Assistant fire chief Billy Baker said the fire was declared
under control at about 7:10 p.m.
Authorities said about 100 volunteer firefighters from Milford
and surrounding communities battled the blaze. A few were treated
for heat exhaustion.
A firefighter from Felton said he could see smoke from the fire
eight miles outside Milford, a former shipbuilding community about
20 miles south of Dover, with a population of about 7,000.
"Wiley's is gone," said Steve Pikus, whose family owns a shoe
store on Walnut Street, where some buildings are more than 100
years old.
Pikus said a firefighter told him the blaze damaged almost every
building along an entire block.
"It's very unfortunate," he said. "The buildings are so close
together."
The blaze is likely to deal a blow to efforts to revitalize the
downtown area along the banks of the Mispillion River.
"Downtown, as far as getting stores opening, ... has always
taken two steps forward and one step back," Pikus said. "This is
another step back."
Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, a Milford native, visited the scene as
crews continued to fight the fire. Officials informed her that the
books in the bookstore could smolder for days, said Minner
spokesman Greg Patterson.
"It's going to be a big setback for the downtown," Patterson
said.




(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)