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Cape business destroyed by early morning fire

By Staff | Dec 20, 2012

An early morning electrical fire totaled a Cape Coral business Thursday.

At 2:21 a.m., Cape fire dispatch received a 911 call about smoke in a building at 1430 Cape Coral Parkway and Cape Coral Street. Firefighters arrived and saw flames on the roof of Rustic Gatherings, located at 4808 Cape Coral St.

Fire crews extinguished the fire by 2:39 a.m., according to officials.

A Cape fire inspector determined that the cause of fire was electrical and accidental. The flames caused an estimated $200,000 in damage total.

Cape Fire Battalion Chief Alan Carter reported that the fire’s area of origin was near the center of the business. The point of origin for the fire was near a Christmas tree, in the area of a power strip and several Christmas lights.

A city building inspector red-tagged the structure, and Lee County Electric Cooperative responded to the scene and removed the electrical meter.

Rustic Gatherings owner Donna Freeman rushed to the store when called.

“When we saw it at first on the outside, it didn’t really look any different,” she said. “You could see a little smoke coming out of the roof.”

Officials instructed her to come back later when it was light outside.

Returning later that morning, she was told it was an electrical fire.

“He let us go in and that was pretty devastating,” Freeman said. “I think we thought that some of it might be salvageable, but it just had so much soot and heat that affected (everything).”

Throughout the day, customers dropped by upon hearing the news.

“We’re so fortunate. It just makes you feel very grateful,” she said. “And, of course, we’re grateful we didn’t have customers in the store or employees or ourselves (when the fire occurred).”

The insurance company was expected to stop by Friday.

Approximately 3,000-square-feet of leased space, Rustic Gatherings was “absolutely stacked with merchandise and antiques,” Freeman explained.

“We’re absolutely horrified because we’re in our Christmas season,” she said. “It’s a pretty big impact, but the owners are wonderful people and they are getting ready to build immediately, so we’ll stock the store back up.”

Freeman hopes to reopen within two to three months.

“It will still be a primitive country store and home and gift items,” she said.

Once the owner of the Rustic Peddler in the Cape, Freeman has never gone through a store fire before. She opened Rustic Gatherings in January.

“We have just done wonderful all year,” Freeman said, attributing the success to the support from customers. “We try to buy the cutest and the best and the most unusual for them.”

Prior to Thursday’s fire, the store employed four to five people.