Dawn Ambler received hugs of support from friends and customers outside her 2 Bits and More flea market Tuesday afternoon.
She was still reeling from the moment she watched her life's work go up in flames.
"Someone told me my building was on fire. I came down and got here in time to see the front of the building explode out into the street," she said. "At that point, I was just very, very frightened for everyone's safety."
No one was hurt in the fire that broke out in the rear of her business around 7 p.m. Monday night. No other businesses were significantly damaged. All of the inventory belonging to Ambler’s 25 vendors was lost, however.
Ambler has owned the building and her business for 25 years.
"My kids grew up here," she said, wiping away tears.
The building is 115 years old. It was Arlington's original movie theater.
To Ambler, however, it was much more.
"I'd walk into the grocery store and hear some little kid tell his mom that I was the lady from his favorite store,” she said.
The building is insured, but the inventory will likely not be covered. Investigators said there is so much debris inside the building it will likely be at least another day before they know the cause. At this point there are no signs of foul play.
One firefighter narrowly escaped serious injury when the front windows of the building blew out, because of the intense heat that had built up inside.
Six people from a group of adjacent apartments have been relocated to temporary shelter.
Ambler said she is simply just grateful no one was hurt, and for the support of her community as she enters a very uncertain time.
"I've spent most of my adult life here," she said. "I opened the original variety store when I was 29. I've spent my life with this business. At this point, I'm not sure what's going to happen."