Former Arlington children’s theater building burns for a second time

01/20/2014 2:08 PM

01/20/2014 2:10 PM

For the second time in less than two years, the building that formerly housed Creative Arts Theatre & School has been damaged by fire, the latest being a three-alarm blaze that started early Monday.

Firefighters received a call at 2:57 a.m. that the vacant building at 1100 W. Randol Mill Road was in flames, said Battalion Chief Wes Montgomery. The structure did not have gas or electricity.

Unlike the first blaze, which happened the night of July 4, 2012, firefighters have determined a cause for the Monday morning fire.

Deputy Fire Marshal Darin Niederhaus attributed the source to “vagrants in the building.”

“It was very apparent there were a few [people] present at some point, without getting into detail,” he said Tuesday. Nobody was found in the building when firefighters arrived.

The fire resulted in an estimated $300,000 in damage, Montgomery said.

Firefighters brought the fire under control within 42 minutes, Montgomery said, and cleared the scene at 5:49 a.m. One firefighter suffered minor burns and was treated at a hospital.

CATS Producing Director Merri Brewer and other volunteers spent part of their Martin Luther King Jr. holiday boarding up the building’s windows for safety, she said.

Brewer said she doesn’t think the damage will affect the potential sale of the land, which has been on the market since March 2012.

“We have classes [Monday] evening, and we will still have classes as usual,” she said. “We have nothing in that building that is important to the work we are doing right now. We don’t do any business there; it is simply land and a building we are selling. Our classes and mission will continue as usual. This is just a little hiccup.”

This isn’t the first hiccup, however.

On the evening of July 4, 2012, firefighters also responded to a three-alarm fire at the building.

CATS officials said they had been about 10 days shy of closing the deal with a prospective buyer when someone noticed smoke coming from the building at about 9 p.m.

Niederhaus said Arlington Fire Department investigators were unable to determine what caused the fire, which did $400,000 in structural damage and $50,000 in damage to the building’s contents.

At the time, the nonprofit organization was still housed in the former multistory church building, but the school was closed for the July Fourth holiday. No one was injured.

It took about 2 1/2 hours for firefighters to control the fire, which caused them to evacuate the building at one point, and they used two ladder trucks to attack the fire from above.

“The building was a loss after the first fire,” Brewer said.

Renee Efimoff is an agent with Coldwell Banker Commercial Alliance who helped the nonprofit move into its current home at 602 E. South St. Efimoff also now serves on the board at CATS.

“Between the damage from the fire and the water damage, we determined we could tear down the building and sell it for the dirt,” she said.

Efimoff said she would like to attract a developer who would build a medical office, since the property is close to Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital.

“It’s unfortunate,” she said of the fire Monday. “It’s going to be another setback.”

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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