Two buildings were either totally destroyed or mostly destroyed following a fire that broke out on the 300 block of West Main Street in Denison last Wednesday.
Denison City Manager Jud Rex provided an update on the buildings that had been affected by the fire at a special called meeting Monday morning.
“While the fire was devastating from a property damage stand point, of course we’re thankful everybody is safe and okay,” Rex said. “Our focus is to move forward as quickly as possible on cleanup and recovery. Our most immediate concern is for the safety of the public relative to the clean up and recovery. We had a structural engineer come out on Saturday to evaluate all the properties impacted, also looking at all of the alley’s, streets and side walks.”
The building to the east of fire at 311 West Main, the home of 2 Chicks Home and Market is structurally safe to enter, but Rex said there was some smoke damage. The building at 313 West Main, My Friend’s House, is structurally safe to enter, but that building also had considerable fire damage at the back of the building along with water and smoke damage.
Luxor Nail and Spa, the building at 317 West Main Street where the fire originated was totally destroyed.
“This site is particularly going to play an important part in our clean up efforts because it really needs get cleared so we can access 319 (West Main) to make that property safe and stable,” Rex said.
The city is trying to salvage the front facade of 319 West Main Street, and Monday city officials said they were preparing to brace it in order to save as much of the front as possible. Rex said the structural engineer was not optimistic it could be saved but there was that possibility.
The rest of the building will for sure be demolished as soon as enough of 317 is cleared away to make room for the demolition equipment, Rex said. If bracing doesn’t work, there is no secondary plan. The city will have to tear down the whole building and start over. The key deciding factor will be how sound the steel supports are.
Rex said the second floor received a lot of heat damage. The building had lofts upstairs that were evacuated. The individuals who resided there have been displaced.
“There are personal effects we want to help residents retrieve from the lofts,” Rex said. “We have to be sensitive and careful getting access to that. We have to be careful getting the walls down that are a safety hazard at this point.”
The roof collapsed on the second floor of 321 West Main Street, a former antique shop. The engineer recommended embracing the front facade as well Rex said. Once 319 West Main is cleared, city crews will have access to the east wall to begin repairs on the structure. The engineer did allow the city to OK residents who had lived in the lofts to enter the building to recover their personal belongings.
Rex said 323 West Main is structurally safe to enter with no significant impacts to the structure.
In addition to the buildings that were directly affected by the fire, a few other businesses were temporarily closed due to smoke concerns. The Denison Public Library, St. Luke’s Catholic Church and Snow White Dry Cleaners were all affected. Rex said there were firefighters still putting out spot fires at 317 West Main as of Saturday.
“We got a lot done over the weekend as far as having the structural engineer coming,” Rex said. “That was the first big step we needed to take to find out what we can do to stabilize and begin recovery and clean up. Now that we have that report, we know what our next steps are. We want to move forward as quickly as possible.”
Denison Fire Rescue Chief Gregg Loyd said as of Monday the cause of the fire was still unknown. Loyd said since the department is still in the process of hiring a replacement fire marshal, John Weda of the Grayson County Fire Department, is doing the investigation for the department. There was another fire later Wednesday night and Weda hadn’t completed the investigation as of the Monday meeting.
“As we went through this fire, obviously the building on fire progressed rapidly,” Loyd said. “It moved from the back of the building to the front of the building. Command was also staged in the back. I stayed on the front for most of the incident so we had eyes on both sides. Once everything was evacuated, we tried to attack the fire to get water on it. There was not enough water to handle that fire load and not enough access to get water to the fire. So, it was spreading. It wasn’t spreading horribly fast at that point until it hit something in the middle of that structure that picked up the speed of the fire. As it progressed, it was completely involved and started to get into other structures adjacent to it.”
Loyd said once the building that was the site of the fire is cleared the rest of the buildings will be more accessible, and the challenge going forward is getting eyes on the parts of the building that were not immediately accessible over the weekend and at the beginning of this week. Right now, he said, everyone is following the plans the structural engineer provided as well as coordinating with insurance companies.