BATAVIA — Dr. Vladimir Frias walked up to his dental practice at 101 Washington Ave. and planned to go into the reception area and do some paperwork.
“When I came in, I saw the smoke. I really don’t know what happened,” he said.
A fire had broken out in the building, which dated from 1874.
“There was smoke and there was fire. I called 911 right away and they were here,” he said. “When I came in from the back, the fire seemed like it was in the middle. I have no idea where it started.”
The dentist said he got to the scene a little after 1 p.m. He had come to the office to do some paperwork after finding out his receptionist and hygienist left. Frias said he knew where the fire extinguisher was in the office, but couldn’t get to it.
Frias owns the building, which is on the list of the city’s Historic Landmark Designations.
“I love this building,” said Frias, who’s had a dental practice there for almost seven years. “It’s a historic landmark ... This is horrible. It’s not just a building to us. It’s been a lot of different things over the years, but we bought it and, bit by bit, we were trying to restore it.
“We were supposed to get the outside painted this year. Either the end of this year or next year, we were scheduled for a whole new paint job. We did the deck work.”
Frias said a contractor was going to do the painting.
“He just didn’t have time to finish the rest of the building,” he said. “COVID ... everything’s been delayed. It was supposed to be done this summer. Some buildings are not replaceable. I’m just hoping the damage isn’t too bad — at least for the outside. The inside was all refurbished, but the outside is all original. The interior of the building is not historic.”
Frias said the Batavia Historic Preservation Commission told him he could do what he wanted to do with the inside of the building, but that the outside had to remain the same.
City Historian Larry Barnes said Present Tense bookstore was at at that address before the dental practice.
“It was there for several years. It was was really nice,” he said.
Interim Fire Chief Daniel Herberger said that around 1:30, firefighters were dispatched for a building fire,
“Some dispatch information as we were responding was that smoke was coming from the building and the building was evacuated,” Herberger said.
“It’s a house converted to a dentist’s office. When we arrived, there was heavy smoke and fire coming out of the main entrance of the building. We employed a hose line and attacked the fire, checked for extension. There was really no extension,” Herberger said. “The fire was contained mainly to the front office area. It’s under investigation right now. It’s just, that appears to be where the fire started. There was nobody occupying the building. The owner came by and ... came in and noticed the building full of smoke.”
Herberger said there appeared to be relatively minor fire damage, smoke damage throughout and water damage.
Firefighters went to a second alarm, which brought more manpower to the scene.
“Our on-duty staff is six firefighters, plus me,” he said. “A fire like this takes more than seven personnel to put out. It’s pretty standard for a fire like this to go to a second alarm.”
Herberger said it looks like the building can be restored and Frias will be able to start using it again as a dental practice.
The fire was under investigation Tuesday afternoon.