April 2, 2009

Fire Guts Main Street Cafe on Memphis City Square

Just days after celebrating its first anniversary in business, the Main Street Caf of Memphis was gutted by fire.

The blaze was reported at 6:13 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31st. When neighboring business owner Dr. Harlo Donelson smelled smoke and investigated the area, ultimately finding smoke and flames coming from the rear of the restaurant, which is located on the southwest corner of the Memphis square.

Just a block away from the sheriff's department as well as the fire station, emergency personnel were on the scene in just minutes.

A hose team entered the rear of the business and fought the fire, which had engulfed the entire kitchen area as well as the business office located between the kitchen and dining room of the caf.

The quick response kept the fire from spreading beyond the restaurant building.

The former Memphis City Hall, and the law office of Kimberly J. Nicoli, which adjoin the caf to the south sustained smoke damage, as did the insurance office of Brett L. Brewer, and the dentistry office of Dr. Harlo Donelson, which adjoin the restaurant on the north.

The fire caused extensive damage to the kitchen area, scarring the back half of the building. The flames made it to the second story of the building, but were extinguished before they could hit the roof.

As the blaze worked its way toward the old tar roof of the structure, efforts began to evacuate the adjacent buildings. Volunteers helped remove contents from Struble's Antiques and Bange's Gun Shop. During this process, at least one box of personal items from Bange's gun shop were misplaced. Anyone that may have helped with the efforts is asked to contact the store in an effort to locate the missing item(s).

Fortunately for the west side of the city square, the blaze was brought under control before it could break through the roof and threatened the other buildings.

Twenty firemen from the Scotland County Fire Department answered the emergency call, with six fire trucks utilized to fight the blaze. Those efforts were aided by countless volunteers who assisted with moving and laying hose and handling ladders and exhaust fans.

"It was a true community effort," said Fire Chief Bryan Whitney.

The emergency response ended at approximately 9:00 p.m., but the fire department maintained a presence at the scene until midnight to insure the fire did not rekindle.

An investigator from the state fire marshal's office was on the scene late Tuesday evening and worked throughout the day on April 1st. The fire originated in the northwest corner of the building, where a trash can and a container of grease rags used to clean the kitchen equipment was stored. The ignition source was undetermined.

Cleanup was underway April 1st for many of the businesses on the southwest corner of the city square. Owners Dave and Jeanne Snodgrass have indicated they plan to reopen the business.

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