By Wally Kennedy
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Two buildings at the southwest corner of 16th and Main streets were destroyed by fire Tuesday night, but firefighters managed to stop the blaze from spreading to a third structure and to a nearby house.
The fire destroyed a storefront at 1600 S. Main St. that had been a May’s Drug Store for nearly 30 years. It recently was the home of Missouri Breaks, a pool hall and restaurant.
Business owners in that block of Main Street said Tuesday night that a small, computer-based import company was operating in the building at the time of the fire. Authorities were told that the occupants of the building “had locked up and left” well before the fire was reported.
Bucklin’s Furniture, 1608 S. Main St., also was destroyed by the fire, which at times threw flames high into the night sky.
Property owners downwind of the billowing smoke were checking their roofs and yards for embers.
Firefighters stopped the fire from consuming Solace Church at 1610 S. Main St. The structure, which had limited fire damage to some rafters, sustained heavy smoke and water damage.
Firefighters sprayed water on a house at 1602 S. Joplin Ave. to protect it from the searing heat.
Firefighters used at least six streams of water on the fire, including two from aerial ladders. In all, six trucks and 24 firefighters were dispatched to the scene.
Keith Stammer, emergency management director for Joplin and Jasper County, said the fire was reported as a 911 call at 5:53 p.m. He said it is presumed that the call was made by a passer-by.
When firefighters arrived, smoke and flames were shooting from a hole in the roof of the building at 1600 S. Main St.
“At that point, the goal was to keep it contained because the building was essentially lost,” Stammer said.
Electrical power in the area of the fire was shut off by Empire District Electric Co. The temporary outage affected a large area from at least 15th and Main streets to 32nd and Main streets.
Business owners along Main Street and onlookers watched from sidewalks as the fire raged.
“We were looking at it through the pots,” said Brent Skinner, who was inside Phoenix Fired Art, a pottery business across the street at 1603 S. Main St. “When the front wall fell over, we hit the ground. We thought it would break our windows. It was very close.”
Falling brick from the buildings landed on Main Street.
No injuries to firefighters or others were reported Tuesday night.
Cause still out
KEITH STAMMER, emergency management director for Joplin and Jasper County, said it was too early to speculate Tuesday night as to what might have caused the fire. He said it was probable that an investigation would begin today.