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SARASOTA - The flames were hotter than 1,000 degrees, an intensity that bent the steel pipes holding up the warehouse roof into pretzels.
"It looked like a bombed-out building from Berlin," said longtime business owner Warren Wollheim, who was awake at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday while his warehouse burned.
The debris was still smoldering, nine hours later, as the State Fire Marshal investigated the fire's cause.
Nobody was inside the warehouse, but the facility was used to store kitchen sets and bar stools for Dinettes Unlimited, Wollheim's furniture business.
"The building is gone," he said quietly.
In the same area within a month, there were two other fires - one in a trash bin and another in a tractor-trailer - said Assistant Chief Rod VanOrsdol from the Sarasota County Fire Department, who could not say if the other fires were considered suspicious.
The latest fire - and by far, the most destructive - was reported at 1:04 a.m. at the warehouse in north Sarasota at 2330 Industrial Blvd., near Myrtle Street and U.S. 301.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives was photographing the damage with the fire marshal. It is not unusual for the agency to assist when a fire causes extensive damage at a large commercial property.
Investigators declined to comment at the scene.
Wollheim, who lives in Lakewood Ranch, said he could see the flames from University Parkway and 301.
"It was terrible. It was devastating," he said. "It's something you don't expect to see."
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