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Fire rekindles during demolition of 2nd building in Shelbyville

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4 escape as blaze above portion of Fiesta Mexicana damages 5 buildings, 1 of which collapsed

By Steve Doyle and Todd Martin

Fire rekindled this afternoon when workers were starting to demolish a second building damaged by fire in downtown Shelbyville.

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Fire officials had determined late this morning that the building at 614 Main Street was too unstable to remain. Officials from Gra-Kat Environmental Services brought in equipment to begin just after noon. But when they did, flames emerged again in the building that had housed Fiesta Mexicana and Creative Spirits counseling office. It is adjacent to the structure where a fire broke out early Wednsday morning, collapsing that building and heavily damaging four others.

Both Shelbyville and Shelby County fire departments responded to a call at about 4:30 a.m. on the south side of the 600 block of Main Street. Four residents escaped unharmed from apartments above Creative Spirits and Fiesta Mexicana.

Main Street and Henry Clay Street were closed between 7th and 6th streets as about 50 firefighters used a variety of ladder and pumper trucks to combat a blaze that continued spout flames and threaten the structures through mid-morning.

Residents were awakened shortly before 5 a.m. by smoke alarms and the smell of smoke even as Shelbyville Police officers were knocking on doors, witnesses said.

The fire apparently started in the space above a remodeled store front into which Fiesta Mexicana was about to expand and quickly moved to the section of the building that housed the restaurant and the conseling service.

The building where the fire began collapsed, with its roof and bricks falling into the structures that formerly housed Fat Tony’s Restaurant and Shelby County Life magazine, causing additional damage.

The building just east that includes Computer Hawks and a warehouse for Wakefield-Scearce Galleries apparently had no damage, though smoke was prevalent all across the city and power was knocked out to some businesses as downtown came to a virtual standstill.

Jim Reynolds, owner of four of the buildings, said he was just happy that everyone got out alive.

“I’ve cried about as much as I can cry,” Reynolds said as he watched firefighters continue to battle the blaze. “The fire still could be spreading through the attic up there.”

The Red Cross dispensed aid to the firefighters, residents and businesses owners, setting up shop in McKinley’s Deli, across the street from the fire.

That’s where three of the residents, Mark Caudill, Larry Snider and Adrian Cruz Valasquez were resting after being roused from sleep on the cold, snowy morning.

“Our smoke alarms woke us up,” said Snider, who also rescued his miniature Doberman named Lanie. “Then the police were knocking on our door. We [he and Caudill] grabbed what we could and got out.”

Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty said that he was devastated by the loss of the structures but pleased there were no injuries.

“It’s just awful – but we were so lucky that no one was injured,” he said.

The fire drew many onlookers from downtown offices and businesses and area residents. A television station helicopter hovered overhead, and other TV crews were setup in the parking lot next to the Shelby County History Center.

Some of the first reports emerged from residents of downtown apartments roused from sleep.

One of them, Joseph Vance, wrote on his Facebook page that he was awakened by the smell of smoke and went outside to see flames fully engaging the building down the street. He shared several photographs of firefighters’ working before the building collapsed.

Temperatures hovered around 30 degrees, which made conditions endurable, but a brisk wind from the north not only stirred the flames but also covered the areas along Clay and Bradshaw streets with a thick cloud of smoke.

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