PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — An early morning fire in Panama City that destroyed a local art gallery near the corner of 5th Street and Beach Drive. No one was injured in the fire but the building was completely destroyed.
“It’s just unbelievable,” said an employee from a nearby business, April Vaughn.
At around 3:49 AM Thursday morning, the Panama City Fire Department responded to a fire at the Paul Brent Art Gallery in downtown Panama City. Luckily, the building at the time of the fire was under construction still from Hurricane Michael.
“I know that they were in the process of rebuilding the gallery, so I think maybe it’s good that at least their pieces weren’t there,” said Vaughn.
The Panama City Fire Department worked into the afternoon to put out any smolders and hot spots, using tower trucks with hoses to fight the blaze.
Police blocked roadways in the surrounding areas to control traffic during those hours.
“It was definitely unexpected, I turned the corner and just thought oh my routes blocked, but I didn’t think it was anything massive, just thought at first they were maybe working on an electricity pole, then I saw the water,” said Vaughn.
Another company nearby, The American Legion saw the blaze and were in complete shock as the two-story art gallery is well known in the community.
“That’s been a mainstay in this area for a long time, I know that there’s a lot of priceless stuff in there I know they sold many many paintings in there. W used to just go in there and look, so it’s very sad,” said American Legion Employee, Wanda Davis.
Many worries for the employees of the gallery.
“Of course their livelihood, their income, the community, their physical being able to work and provide for their families, it’s got to be just devastating,” said Davis.
Fire officials say they have surveillance video from a nearby business that could answer questions on how the blaze started. The state fire marshalls office has been called in to investigate.