Earle, Marion Fire Departments battle weekend fire
Funeral home, neighboring buildings destroyed in blaze
An early morning fire in downtown Earle over the weekend resulted in the total loss of a funeral home and two adjacent brick buildings, but fortunately firefighters were able to keep the blaze from spreading to a pharmacy next door.
According to Earle Assistant Fire Chief Michael Hood, the fire started around 11:30 p.m. Friday night at 627 Commerce Street.
“When they got there it was heavy smoke,” Hood said. “They got inside it was all up in the attic. And once they got some ventilation to try to put it out, they had to back out because it just really took off.” Hood said the fire spread almost immediately to the adjacent buildings which were both vacant.
“It held off for a while and I thought there was a good possibility of saving the building directly south of it. But it got going in the attic and we held it at bay for quite some time, but we weren’t able to save it.”
Firefighters, with the assistance of Marion Fire Department, instead shifted their focus on keeping the fire from spreading to Clark’s Pharmacy, the only pharmacy in the town.
Marion Fire Department joined the effort to extinguish the blaze around 12:30 a.m. and stayed until about 5:30 a.m.
“There was a fourth building that the fire was impinging on,” said Marion Fire Chief Woody Wheeless. “We basically set up a water curtain between those three and the one we were trying to save. We were able to save the drug store.”
Wheeless said a crew from Earle Water Department also brought a backhoe to the scene and helped push in the brick walls to ensure they did not collapse while firefighters were still working to put the fire out.
“It’s really sad because every time this happens it is just another building where you probably won’t see anything build back there,” Wheeless said.
Eternal Light Funeral Services used the building as a satellite office and no bodies were stored inside the structure where the blaze started. Earle City Clerk Cynthia Conner said she is extremely sad to hear that the buildings are a total loss, and that it is a blow to the city which is already struggling to get back on its feet.
“We hate to see this happen to any business,” Conner said. “We’re working hard to bring in new business, and to have these burned out buildings it just hurts the beautification efforts in the downtown. But I am praying and hoping that we can turn things around. I believe that behind everything bad that happens, something good will happen. Earle has to go up.”
Hood said the cause of the fire is still unknown, but authorities do not suspect any foul play.
“It’s sad because that is a building that will never be replaced,” Hood said. “But we were extremely happy we saved the pharmacy.”
Hood also expressed gratitude to Marion Fire Department for their invaluable assistance.
“Without their help and their ladder truck we would have lost the whole block,” Hood said.
By Mark Randall