Firefighters injured battling blaze

Published 5:00 am Monday, October 11, 2004

A fire fed by dangerous chemicals and tires destroyed an oldMonticello building and slightly injured six firefighters earlySunday morning.

The firefighters were treated at the scene for heat exhaustionand smoke inhalation, Monticello Fire Chief Wayne Harrisonsaid.

“Nobody was seriously injured enough to warrant going to thehospital,” he said.

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The building, owned by Jimmy Barton was commonly known as theold Chevrolet dealership. It was located on F.E. Sellers Highwayacross from the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department and Jail.

The fire, which is under investigation, likely began hoursbefore the fire department was notified, Harrison said, and wasfully involved when they arrived around 5 a.m.

“It was probably burning for a couple of hours before we werenotified. It was a metal building and (the fire) couldn’t escape,so it just ate everything inside,” he said. “It had smoked up thefront windows so you couldn’t see it on fire inside from the road.It completely gutted the building. There’s nothing left.”

When firefighters arrived, Harrison said, they immediatelyrequested assistance from Topeka Volunteer Fire Department and theyarrived to assist shortly afterward.

“We cleaned out the station. Every truck we had rolled to thatfire,” said Topeka Fire Chief Royce Renfroe. “We helped fight thefire and shuttled water.”

Harrison said firefighting efforts were hampered because thebuilding was being used to store extremely flammable and toxicchemicals, such as oil, antifreeze, starting fluid and ether.Batteries and other potentially lethal items were also storedthere.

It is unlikely, however, that even without the chemicals andtoxic danger that the building could have been saved because thefire was fully involved when they arrived, he said.

The building was being used by Reid’s Tire and Auto to storeapproximately $50,000 in equipment and supplies. The merchandisewas moved to the building after being saved when their business atthe old Jolly Ford building on the corner of Highway 84 and F.E.Sellers Highway was gutted by fire the first week of July. The Reidfamily was leasing both buildings at the time of the fire.

Firefighters returned to the station after yesterday’s firearound 11 a.m., but made four trips back to the scene during thecourse of the day to put down hot spots.

“They had about 50 tires in there and it was just hard to keepthem out,” Harrison said.

Sunday’s fire destroyed a building that opened as May Chevroletin 1975 and remained a Chevrolet dealership, with several owners,for more than 20 years. Several businesses have located in thebuilding in the past decade, but there were none open for businessat the time of the fire.