The Empty Montgomeryville Mart Is Destroyed In General-alarm Fire

Posted: October 22, 1991

A huge fire swept through the empty Montgomeryville Mart in Montgomery Township last night, reducing the sprawling one-story building to rubble.

More than 200 firefighters responded to the general-alarm blaze near the Five Points Intersection, of Routes 309, 202 and 463, after it was reported at 6:31 p.m. Firefighters were under strict orders not to risk entering the building but to douse it with water from the outside.

Montgomery Township police Lt. Gordon L. Simes said the fire had started on the east side of the cinder-block building, in about the middle of the structure, which is longer than a football field. He said wind spread flames to the front and west of the building.

The fire was brought under control at 9 p.m. by firefighters from nine companies. There were no injuries reported.

Montgomery Township Police Chief Richard Brady said that since the building was closed in March 1990, small fires had been deliberately set on several occasions. He said the cause of last night's fire had not been determined and was under investigation.

Colmar Fire Chief Bob Glorioso said there was a fire-retarding sprinkler system in the building that for unexplained reasons failed to work.

Flames from the heavily tarred roof rose 100 feet, Simes said, showering the area with soot and embers.

The Eric 7 Montgomeryville movie theater, several hundred feet from the Mart, was evacuated as a precautionary measure, Simes said.

Known as the Montgomeryville Merchandising Mart when it opened in 1954, the Mart offered 56,000 square feet of shopping space and parking for 5,000 cars. It was one of the first suburban centers to lure Philadelphians with discount prices.

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