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As firefighters focused their attention between 610 and 620 Main Street on Wednesday, hundreds of onlookers made their way to the area to take in the devastation and watch firemen and women work.
Everyone, from Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty to Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger to citizens on the street, has marveled at a job well done, and perhaps rightfully so.
But behind those firemen were several other departments and citizens quietly working to help and provide the resources for them to do their work.
Tom Doyle, manager of Shelbyville Municipal Water and Sewer, said his crew was on the scene by about 5 a.m.
“When they are flowing really large volumes, that’s our biggest issue,” he said. “We have to maneuver some pumps so they can get the pressure they need for that much volume.”
And Jennifer Herrell, city engineer/director of public works, noted that her crew was on the scene first thing as well.
“We had personnel around all day just in case they needed our help,” she said. “A lot of our people were already in early, by about one-thirty in the morning, in case we needed to work on snow removal. And a few of them stayed around a little later than normal to help.”
And those on the scene and ready to help weren’t limited to city employees or Red Cross volunteers.
Teresa McKinley said she and her husband, Skip, who run McKinley’s Bread Shop and Deli just across Main Street from the fire, rushed in as soon as they found out what was going on.
”We normally open at about ten-thirty,” she said. “But that morning we opened the doors between six and six-thirty.”
We all see how the firefighters work in unison to take on a destructive fire like the one that left a hole in the streetscape, but what else goes on behind the scenes when dozens of firefighters and dozens more volunteers and onlookers are in the vicinity on a subfreezing morning?
Shelbyville Fire Chief Willard “Tiger” Tucker told the Shelbyville City Council that his department estimates that it used between 400,000 and 500,000 gallons of water to fight the blaze. But how does that translate?
“We ran the figures, and I’d say it was about thirteen hundred dollars at our costs,” Doyle said. “But we don’t bill anyone for that.”
Doyle said that those outside the county that live within a 1,000 feet of city fire hydrant pay $1.25 fire hydrant fee a month, and those within the city have their fees covered by city taxes.
“That pays for routine maintenance and testing of the hydrants,” he said. “So, that kind of covers that expense.”
Doyle also estimated that his crews spent about a total of 20 man-hours working the fire.
Herrell said she had not yet counted the hours worked on fire detail and clean-up, especially since it overlapped with being on call for snow removal duty.
“I haven’t really looked at yet, but I know our personnel stayed around all day in case we were needed,” she said. “We were out there to block off the streets, and we closed the road down when they needed it. We also did some traffic work, helping the fire and police departments.”
Much of Public Works work came later, after the fire was finally out.
“We had a couple of crews working on street clean-up,” Herrell said. “We ran the street sweeper for a couple hours on Main Street, and we had some workers on Clay Street cleaning the mud off. A lot of the debris had flowed down the hill with the draining water, and ended up at the corner of Clay and 7th streets, so we had some clean up there.”
McKinley said she and her husband get up early and received quite the scare first thing that morning.
“Our alarm goes off at five-fifteen every morning, and we always turn on WHAS,” she said. “One of the first things we here is there is a fire at a restaurant in Shelbyville, well you can imagine what I thought.
“We tried calling several people, including the fire chief, and when we couldn’t find out what restaurant it was. I eventually ended up calling 911. They were OK with it because they know me because we deliver lunch down there.
“They told us where the fire was, so we got dressed and ready as quickly as we could and got down there.”
McKinley said they entered through the back door, but when they saw the magnitude of the fire, they quickly opened the doors.
“I saw the judge [Rob Rothenburger], George Best [Triple S Commission chair] and Hubie [Pollett, the magistrate for Shelbyville] outside, and it was so cold I invited them in.,” she said.
She quickly started putting out food and making coffee for firefighters and workers looking to get warm inside the store.
“We estimated that we made about sixteen pots of coffee,” she said. “And we made some hot chocolate by the cup. It was so early, we didn’t even have anything baked yet, so we put out some leftover stuff.”
Both Rothenburger and Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty asked to open tabs at the restaurant to cover the cost of the emergency workers and volunteers.
“I told them we don’t want them to pay for it, we were glad we could do it,” she said. “Especially for those people that lived upstairs[in the burned buildings] and for those that owned and worked at Fiesta [Mexicana, which was destroyed]. They were here all day watching. They’re such nice people. They never would have asked for anything.”
She did note that Red Cross insisted on paying for some sandwiches ordered later in the day.
“So we’re going to make a donation to the Red Cross,” she said. “They were here working so hard.
“We’re just glad we could do what we did. I don’t think we did anything that anyone else wouldn’t do. If it had been the other way, I think they [the owners and workers of Fiesta Mexicana] would’ve done the same.”
The clean up
Once the fire was finally extinguished and the smoldering nearly finished, the cleanup began.
Employees of GRA-KAT Environmental Services, which has an office on Kentucky Street in Shelbyville, were on hand Thursday to begin the cleanup, which the expect to be finished by Friday.
“We won’t know the cost until we’re finished, I can’t really speculate on it,” said Andy White, the president of GRA-KAT. He said that tab would be paid by insurance.
White said he had a crew of four working on Tuesday and that the crew, running three machines, filled six Dumpsters last Friday.
“And we’ll probably fill six or seven today and six more on Friday, when we finish it up.”