Massive Fire Destroys 16 Florida Businesses

June 23, 2008
Built in the '70s, the complex had no sprinklers or alarms.

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Workers at a Leesburg office complex were waking up Monday morning with an empty feeling. Fire destroyed 16 businesses in a commerce park building leaving many of the workers with no job to go to.

The blaze broke out shortly before 10:00am Sunday at North 3rd Street and West Oak Terrace (see map) near the north campus of Leesburg Regional Medical Center. It burned for several hours before firefighters could get it under control.

Monday morning, crews were still at the scene of the fire looking out for hot spots. The building was shaped like the letter "T" and the only section that remained with a roof was the very end.

"My wife was hysterical, she had to leave," said Gordon Oldham, the man who owns the building.

He watched most of it burn to the ground.

"There wasn't anybody in there. That's the first thing," Oldham said. "I'm concerned about my people who were the tenants there. They are good people."

The Leesburg office park was home to 16 businesses, including the United Way and a Department of Corrections office.

"We just try to save whatever we can, considering the circumstances," said Chief Gary Keiser of the Leesburg Fire Department. "We realize these records are important to the state and to control certain people who are in the population who might need to be supervised."

The building was constructed in the 1970s and t had no sprinklers or alarm system and there were no firewalls in the attic.

"We had something that was one great, big fire waiting to happen," added Keiser.

Investigators said the fire started on one end of the building, but the state fire marshal's office had no official comment on how it happened.

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