The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

May 21, 2011

Fire destroys Pittsburg businesses

PITTSBURG, Kan. — A fire destroyed two longtime businesses in downtown Pittsburg on Saturday afternoon and threatened others in the same block.

Officials said Beitzinger’s Hardware Inc., 722 N. Broadway, and Bud’s Jewelry, 720 N. Broadway, were total losses, but firefighters were able to prevent further damages to other businesses along the downtown block.

Fire Chief Scott Crain said the fire started in back of the second floor of the Beitzinger’s building, estimated to be 100 years old. As of Saturday night, he said the cause is unknown.

Crews had put hoses on the department’s new 100-foot aerial ladder and bucket truck on Friday after training on it earlier in the week, but had not anticipated putting it into service until the end of the month.

At that time, the department’s 85-foot truck was going to be traded to Pierce Manufacturing. But Saturday, the fire required both trucks be put into use, Crain said, in order to prevent the fire spreading to neighboring businesses.

Crain said it appeared that Knights of Columbus, 7181⁄2 N. Broadway, probably sustained smoke damage, but Mike’s New & Used, 716 N. Broadway, and Sear’s, 710 N. Broadway, were unscathed.

Crowds of bystanders had helped carry appliances and electronics out of Sears as a precaution, stacking them in the alley.

“John (Beitzinger) and I had always talked about retiring someday, but not like this,” said Phil Beitzinger as he watched crews on the scene. “This is not a good way, not at all. I’m numb. I’m in shock.”

The brothers took over the store from their father, who opened the store in 1945.

“This store has always been part of my life,” said Phil Beitzinger, adding that he didn’t know what he’d do now.

No one was in the hardware store when the fire broke out.

Terri Steele, who with her boyfriend, John Kutz, owns several downtown buildings, said one of their renters was walking down the alley and spotted smoke Saturday afternoon. Phil Beitzinger said he had left the business about noon, spoke briefly to Mike Seely who has owned Mike’s New & Used for many years, then went home. John Beitzinger was at Roaring River for the day.

“When I got here, I wanted to run in and get some things, but they said there was just too much, that it was too late.” Phil Beitzinger said.

The Fire Department had been conducting fire inspections downtown in recent months, but had not yet inspected Beitzinger’s or others in that block.

“We were concentrating on high occupancy,” Crain said. “There were no fire walls there, we know that.”

Sear’s and Ryan’s Cleaners, 712 N. Broadway, are on the site of the former Moore’s Furniture, which burned in 1978. The block is across the street from the historic Hotel Stillwell.

Hundreds of bystanders watched as crews worked, and traffic was more congested than usual because of the annual YMCA Dance Academy performance at Memorial Auditorium two blocks away.

Members of Westar Energy crews were also on the scene because of possible risk of streetlights catching fire and creating an additional danger to the public.

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