A commercial building at 1641 East Main Street, the former location of Givens Books, caught fire on Tuesday, Dec. 6, according to the Salem Fire & EMS Department.
The vacant building, which was schedule for demolition as part of extensive renovation project for that corner of the street, sustained extensive damage, the department said.
The department responded to the fire at approximately 8:05 p.m. on Dec. 6. “The first units arrived within four minutes of receiving the call and found heavy fire and smoke coming from the second floor of the building,” a release said.
The commander of the scene requested assistance from the Roanoke Fire & EMS Department upon arrival. Firefighters worked to put out the fire on all sides of the building, including with the use of two ladder pipes for master stream operations.
“Due to the size of the fire and the condition of the building, firefighters operated in a defensive mode and did not enter the structure,” the release said.
It took firefighters several hours to bring the fire under control. While they worked, East Main Street near the intersection with Route 419 did remain closed to through traffic.
Approximately 30 personnel from the Salem Fire & EMS Department, including Truck 1 Engine 2, Engine 3, Medic 801, Medic 802, Medic 801, Battalion 1 and Fire Medic 1, and the Roanoke Fire & EMS Department, including Engine 13, Ladder 5 and Battalion 2, responded to the call.
As of last Wednesday, the city said the fire is still under investigation and that a damage estimate wasn’t available.
The fire comes roughly three months after the longtime owners of Givens Books, Chip and Susan Givens, sold off the store’s inventory. Over 30,000 books were available for purchase for $1-2 on Sept. 10 and 17, as well as over 70 bookcases.
Givens Books opened in the early 1980s. Chip and Susan operated the store for 32 years. Once they closed it in 2014, a friend of theirs ran it for about a year and a half before it permanently closed.
“It was a fun business. It’s been a fun, fun life. It’s been an education life and it’s been wonderful,” Chip Givens said of operating the business in September prior to the liquidation sale.