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Firefighters still watching fire that burned downtown Greeneville buildings

BECKY CAMPBELL • Mar 12, 2009 at 12:00 AM

CLICK HERE for the Johnson City Press' video of the fire.

According to a report in the Johnson City Press Greeneville firefighters are still on the scene of a major downtown fire that began Wednesday morning.

Greeneville Fire Department Capt. Steve Louderback said two fire engine crews watched over the remains of Chang Thai Restaurant, 138 W. Depot St., all night Wednesday and Thursday morning. He said the fire that began there about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday was out, but firefighters were maintaining a presence to douse any smoldering embers trapped underneath wood.

Louderback said firefighters were “picking” their way into the structure searching for those hotspots and had used “quite a bit of water” overnight.

About 30 firefighters were called to the blaze Wednesday from Greeneville and several other fire departments. Off-duty and auxiliary firefighters were called in to assist. Firefighters had to keep putting water on the fire well into the afternoon Wednesday and were finally able to clear the scene around 7 p.m. – about 10 hours after the first truck pulled up.

Fearing a collapse of the structure, the section of Depot Street near the restaurant was still closed Thursday, Louderback said. Most of the businesses in that area were also closed because vehicle and pedestrian traffic was prohibited access.

“They’re trying their best to get it safe to where the street can open back up,” Louderback said.

City officials and the building’s owners were surveying the scene Thursday


GREENEVILLE — A daylong fire in downtown Greeneville Wednesday destroyed a three-story building that housed a restaurant, burned a second building and threatened a third, according to Greeneville Fire Department Capt. Bob Hopson. Firefighters responded to the blaze after someone apparently saw flames from the back side of Chang Thai Restaurant, 135 W. Depot St., and called 911 about 9:30 a.m. The fire spread quickly and prevented firefighters from entering the building. When the fire got into the roof, that caused the roof to collapse. “It pancaked ... and with three roofs on that building we couldn’t get any water to the seat of the fire,” Hopson said. The fire spread heavy smoke throughout downtown, prompting at least one business to evacuate for a short time. Hopson said the General Morgan Inn evacuated staff and guests because of the smoke. The downtown hotel was never threatened by the fire. Firefighters closed Depot Street and part of Summer Street to traffic, and Hopson said there were quite a few spectators who gathered to watch the blaze. He said the department called off-duty and auxiliary firefighters in to man stations and work the fire, and several other fire departments responded to the scene and provided assistance. “We probably had 30 or 35 firefighters counting all the mutual aid departments that came in to help us,” he said. Throughout the day, the Greeneville/Greene County EMS and the local chapter of the American Red Cross were on scene to provide assistance to firefighters and “we rehabbed them every 20 minutes,” Hopson said. He also said the First Baptist Church nearby cooked supper for everyone on scene. Hopson said the extra manpower was a big help considering the difficult nature of the fire and the length of time it took to put it out. Firefighters had to keep putting water on the fire well into the afternoon and were finally able to clear the scene around 7 p.m. — about 10 hours after the first truck pulled up. But not everyone went back to the station. Hopson said some of the more rested firefighters were going to remain on scene overnight to ensure the fire doesn’t flare up again.

CLICK HERE for the Greeneville Sun's report and video on the fire.

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