Belle Glade Sun

Blaze levels old Pahokee appliance store

County firefighter sustains minor injuries

PAHOKEE — A fire that broke out just before midnight Monday, June 18, destroyed a historic building constructed in the 1920s that housed a bridal shop and, later, an appliance store, just north of the intersection where U.S. 98 turns south away from U.S. 441/State Road 15 in Pahokee.

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Capt. Albert Borroto said firefighters were dispatched to battle a large, two-alarm blaze in the old two-story, wood-frame building at 11:46 p.m. Monday. First responders still were actively putting out hotspots around 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, and later in the day a fire engine was dispatched there again because of a flare-up.

The Sun/Chris Felker
Remnants of the fire that destroyed the old Mathis Boes appliance store in Pahokee on Monday night flared up again around midday Tuesday, forcing firefighters to return.

Frances Eric “Skeets” Boe, son of the building’s original owners, Olaf and Catherine Boe, was tending to some of his horses on pasture land at his house next door early Tuesday afternoon and said he’d learned of the fire when “my son came and woke me up. The girl next door woke him up.” He related some of the building’s history, including this: “I was born here, and was raised in the second floor above the shop.”

Mr. Boe said that his father began constructing the building in 1921 and used it, once complete, first to open a repair shop, then a bridal shop and, later, the appliance store, which was a Frigidaire dealer.

He said he’d been in the process of dismantling the main building but could only shake his head in disappointment over the loss of another structure next door on the property, which had warehouse space on the ground floor and an apartment above that a woman was renting from him.

“She had to evacuate,” said Mr. Boe’s niece Jennifer Cole of Palm Beach Gardens, who had prearranged to drop another horse off that morning to be kept at his pasture. Asked whether either knew what had caused the blaze, she said, “My cousin, his son, said it was electrical.”

Mr. Boe, 73, who took over operation of the appliance store for his mother when she was approaching her 90s, couldn’t remember the exact year he ceased operating the business but said it was “somewhere around 1991.”

Carol Peaden, owner of Carol’s Hair Barn just up the street, said early Tuesday morning by phone that she’d learned via Facebook message from her granddaughter after midnight that there was a “big ol’ fire” nearby. “But I didn’t know what the fire was, so we walked on down there, and I said, ‘Oh, my goodness, that’s Skeets Boe’s place!’ Ms. Peaden said.

When she realized which building it was, she took out her cellphone to capture a Facebook Live video on her page. Later, Ms. Peaden was interviewed by WPTV-Channel 5 News and supplied the television station some of her video.

She said that firefighters arrived before midnight to the vacant structure at 2505 E. Main St. Ms. Peaden said the Mathis Boes appliance store that had been there was “like a small Walmart” and that the owners “sold wash machines, refrigerators, appliances; Miss Boe, she sold name-brand dishes. Some of the plates and cups and saucers were very expensive,” Ms. Peaden said, speaking of Skeets Boe’s late mother. “I used to do Miss Boe’s hair,” she recalled.

One firefighter suffered minor injuries in battling the blaze and was taken to a hospital for treatment, but was expected to be OK. No one else was hurt.
The cause of the fire was under investigation.