One of Majuro’s oldest and best-known local businesses was hit by a major fire, destroying its retail store, warehouse, beauty salon, seamstress shop, business office, Israel consulate office, and second-floor apartments in the early morning hours of October 8. No injuries were reported but the loss of construction and retail inventory, together with the building is likely to run into the millions of dollars for the family-run Domnick Auto Rentals (DAR) company. The building was originally constructed in the mid-1960s for Acme, a business partnership involving DAR owner Charles Domnick, Jerry Kramer and Shigeru Wase.
“We didn’t save anything from the office because we focused on getting everyone out first,” said Salome Domnick, a family member who manages a portion of the retail operation.
The fire moved quickly through the building and couldn’t be controlled by local fire fighters. Although the Marshall Islands Police Department’s fire truck responded quickly, it ran out of water within 15 minutes and by the time it could refill and a second fire truck arrived much later from the airport, as well as additional water tankers from Majuro Water and Sewer Company and others, the fire had already razed the building. DAR had just the day before the fire finished renovation of one of its upstairs apartments that burned in the fire.
The popular DAR Coffee Corner restaurant, however, was untouched by the fire, as well as a number of the apartments in the complex and the former construction office on the south side of the property.
The fire appears to have started in the warehouse or the sewing area of the retail store. The Uliga back road experienced a power outage about 11pm Sunday night. Power was restored shortly after 3am. It’s not known if the DAR fire was triggered by an electrical fault when the power came back on, but whatever the case, the fire broke out shortly after power was restored. The fire took off and within minutes was a raging inferno with flames 30 feet in the air.
The northern wall of the warehouse is about five feet from DAR employee apartments that abut the Micronitor News and Printing Company building. Friends and family members of the company joined to douse the roofs and walls of the DAR worker apartments — and later to keep hosing water along the burned down wall of the warehouse with water from Micronitor’s catchment — to prevent the fire leaping to the apartments and the newspaper and print shop.
With the arrival of the airport fire truck after first light — several hours after it had been requested — and additional water trucks supporting the MIPD fire truck, the fire was brought under control by about 7am. A group of Navy Seabees here on a project at Ejit Island also jumped in to help local fire fighters.
Salome said it was too early to say whether the family company would rebuild the store. But, she added, “we can’t dwell on it. We have to move on.” The seamstress shop is being set up to temporarily occupy the “VIP” room at the restaurant. Charles said they are thinking about options to open at least a temporary retail presence with Christmas coming up and shipments of retail goods arriving soon.
The store had been insured some years ago but insurance was dropped when the store was forced to cut costs to remain competitive.
Read more about this in the October 12, 2018 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.