By Neil H. Dempsey
---- — SALEM — The Fire Department says a blaze yesterday at the Walyo’s Variety Store on Essex Street was likely caused by a passerby who improperly discarded a cigarette outside the business.
Firefighters received multiple reports of smoke in the building at 20 Essex St. at about 2:17 p.m. They arrived on scene to find light smoke showing through an outside wall at a front corner of the two-and-a-half story building, Deputy fire Chief Brian Harrington said.
The smoke condition was exaggerated because an owner of the business, identified as Rocky Madan, was using a dry chemical extinguisher on the fire when personnel arrived, causing a cloud of material, Harrington said.
Harrington said Madan’s wife had been running the store when a customer saw smoke coming from the corner of the building on Forrester Avenue. She dialed 911 and then alerted her husband, who was upstairs.
The fire was knocked down in a matter of minutes but the building sustained about $10,000 worth of damage, including a large broken window, Harrington said. It did not extend beyond the first floor.
“If it had been windy like it was yesterday, it could’ve been a lot worse,” Harrington said.
Harrington said firefighters had determined that the blaze began outside the building, likely from a cigarette that landed near its foundation. He said people sometimes flicked away their cigarettes before heading into the store.
Lynn, Peabody and Marblehead crews provided station coverage during the incident.