Photo courtesy of Tim Cox.
BIG STONE GAP — Firefighters worked through the night to extinguish a two-story structure fire located on one of Big Stone Gap's main downtown thoroughfares that erupted Monday.
The fire call was received shortly after 5 p.m. Monday at 13 East 5th St. South, the longtime establishment of a NAPA Auto Parts establishment located directly across from the town's old bus station.
Big Stone Gap's Volunteer Fire Department received assistance from the Valley, Appalachia, Duffield and Norton volunteer fire departments and managed to save the town's ABC (Alcohol Beverage Commission) outlet located directly behind the NAPA building and some adjacent apartments and at least two small businesses.
At around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, a justifiably weary Big Stone Gap VFD Chief Billy Chandler said his units and firefighters worked throughout the night to contain the blaze and hadn't been back to the fire hall long "to give the guys a rest," but expected to get back to the scene Tuesday to stay on top of the still smoldering ruins.
One of Chandler's firefighters — 22-year-old Mikey Jones — slipped and fell on ice while battling the fire and was treated and released for a back injury at Wellmont Lonesome Pine Hospital's emergency room, Chandler said, but there were no other injuries.
"We haven't been back but 30 minutes," Chandler said. "We're still getting the trucks in line, and going over when we get called back. We have a whole room of paint in there, and on the backside is an elevator shaft and a (1,000- or 2,000-gal. home heating) fuel cell, so we're not done with it yet."
Old apartment spaces on the second floor "to my knowledge, have not been occupied for many, many years," Chandler said. Firefighters focused on saving Freda's Magic Mirror, a beauty salon; the ABC store; Diamond G Jewelers and a couple of adjacent single-story apartments.
Chandler said if not for a failed piece of equipment on an Appalachia VFD aerial unit, firefighters had an early chance to get on top of the blaze and actually were, until the equipment failure occurred.
"We got Appalachia's ladder set up on it and had a good stop, but we had a piece break on it and had to bring in Norton's," he said. "We had a real good stop on it early, and then that piece broke."