Fire again strikes city's business district
Fire consumed a Mitchell business Friday night, shooting plumes of smoke hundreds of yards in the air and prompting concern for nearby buildings. Janitor's Express, 200 N. Main, was engulfed in smoke and flames at 11 p.m. Friday, with fire crews ...
Fire consumed a Mitchell business Friday night, shooting plumes of smoke hundreds of yards in the air and prompting concern for nearby buildings.
Janitor's Express, 200 N. Main, was engulfed in smoke and flames at 11 p.m. Friday, with fire crews from Mitchell and four area towns on the scene.
"It's a defensive fire at this point," said Chief of Public Safety Lyndon Overweg, who said around 10 p.m. that the fire was contained to the Gale Building. He was uncertain at that point if fire crews could keep flames from spreading northward to the 1930s vintage Medical Arts building, which houses Merchandise Outlet and Dr. Lucky's.
"I'm not going to say they're safe," said Overweg.
The fire was reported around 7:30 p.m. Friday evening. Its cause was uncertain when this edition went to press early this morning. The flames were believed to have been driven by flammable chemicals stored at the janitorial supply company.
Fire crews poured on streams of water from three directions, pushing back flames that threatened to move north toward the Merchandise Outlet and Dr. Lucky's.
It's the third major fire to hit the Mitchell uptown business district in the past seven years.
In January 2001, the Roxy Theatre, located on the 200 block of South Lawler -- just a block off Main Street -- was destroyed by fire.
And in 2004, the historic State Theatre, the Scoreboard Bar and several apartments burned in a single fire on Main Street.
Friday, all Dave Nash, a co-owner of Dr. Lucky's, could do was sit in his car at Second and Rowley and watch the flames creep closer to his bar, a favorite uptown venue that offers drinks, food and entertainment.
"I don't know what's happening to my place," Nash said in an interview over his cell phone, "but the building next to it is on fire and I'm watching it burn."
Braving temperatures that plunged to around 14 degrees, fire units from Mitchell, Alexandria, Rosedale, Mount Vernon and Plankinton poured streams of water on the smoky blaze.
Police evacuated the 200 block within the first 30 minutes, said Overweg.
Assistant Fire Chief Steve Willis was incident commander at the fire scene, he said.
As the fire intensified, a call went out to area towing companies shortly before 9 p.m. Trucks from Dick's Towing and Dale's Towing sped to the scene and quickly removed vehicles from the parking lot behind the involved buildings.
Overweg said police and fire crews weren't experiencing any freeze-ups of equipment, but solid footing became a problem as ice built and puddles formed from leaking hoses. Crews coped by spreading sand and de-icer.
A heated rehab tent was set up on Main Street to warm firefighters, said Overweg.
No civilian or firefighter injuries were reported as of 11 p.m., he said.
"It's another old landmark that will be gone," said Lyle Swenson, president of the Mitchell Historical Society.
The building that houses Janitor's Express was built around 1880 to 1890 by L.O. Gale, who was one of the entrepreneurs who brought the first Corn Palace to Mitchell, Swenson said.
Nash said police evacuated Dr. Lucky's, which he owns with Justin Morrison and Mike Pierson.
He worried about some irreplaceable items.
"I've got some vintage guitars hanging on the walls and stuff like that," he said, a hint of resignation in his voice.