On Friday afternoon, roughly 40 to 50 volunteers came together to fight a large fire that began in the back area of Kathy’s Cut Ups on Fourth Street in Fairbury. Those firefighters spent several hours working to battle the blaze to prevent the fire from spreading to three other businesses in the block.
Fairbury City Fire Chief Steve Zimmerman said the fire is considered to be an accident. After two investigations, one from the State Fire Marshal and another from the insurance company, it was determined that the fire was caused by a build-up of dryer lint in the attic of the building. Zimmerman said the dryer was not vented outside, which caused the lint to build up. He explained that the fire was caused by the conditions present.
“All it takes is one little spark of anything and the lint will ignite,” said Zimmerman. “You don’t see this happen very often, but this, unfortunately, just happened. It’s nobody’s fault. There weren’t any problems; it’s just one of those things that happen.”
(Photos Contributed By Saril Georgi and Georgann Friedrichsen)
The report of the fire came just before 1 p.m. on Friday, when the Fairbury City Fire Department responded to the call. Zimmerman explained that he called for mutual aid to help prevent the fire from spreading. He said that it was a dangerous fire to battle.
“The first teams made entry, and we were able to slow it down a little bit, but the building has balloon construction, which basically goes clear to the top. The fire got into the upper stories, so we had fire walking back. It’s an older building that had numerous roofs in it, and it’s been remodeled over the years, so we basically had three roofs to contend with. It made for quite an interesting afternoon. We called for mutual aid from all the local departments,” said Zimmerman.
Zimmerman explained that icy conditions also made this a difficult fire to fight, in addition to the contents of the building.
“We had tremendous help, but there were bad weather conditions and lots of obstacles that firefighters inside the building had to deal with,” Zimmerman said. “Once they got inside, there was a lot of wiring that had dropped down on them and they were having to fight their way out of that. There were a lot of hazards inside, but the crews did a tremendous job. It was a dangerous fire, but fortunately, no injuries have been reported at this point.”
Zimmerman believes the structure sustained a large amount of damage, even though they were able to contain the fire in Kathy’s Cut Ups.
“There’s probably a totaled out portion at this point looking at it,” said Zimmerman. “The rear portion of the building is definitely a loss. Any time over 50 percent of the building is damaged, it’s considered a hazard, but I won’t say it’s totally condemned or anything like that. The insurance company will have to be involved. There’s a lot of things to consider.”
The Fairbury City Fire Chief is grateful for all of the help from the other agencies. He is pleased with the way everyone worked together to keep the fire from spreading throughout the rest of the block.
“We had tremendous cooperation between all of the departments. It was just exceptional. I think we can feel fortunate that we were able to contain it to the building, instead of losing a whole block. It was a great effort by the whole community, not just our department.”
Other fire departments that helped to fight the fire include the Fairbury Rural Fire Department, Daykin Fire and Rescue, Jansen Fire Department, Steele City Fire Department, Diller Fire and Rescue, Plymouth Fire and Rescue and the Beatrice Fire Department, which responded with an aerial unit and other equipment.
Other agencies that helped with the effort include the Jefferson County Ambulance, the Fairbury Police Department, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Jefferson and Saline County Emergency Management, Fairbury Light and Water, Black Hills Energy as well as the Fairbury Street and Alley Department.
Zimmerman emphasized that firefighting is dangerous, which is why he is grateful for those who choose to put themselves in harm’s way to try to save lives and property.
“I’ve already heard that there’s a lot of negative comments, but I think people have to realize that we’re all volunteer,” said Zimmerman. “We’re not going to instantly have a truck there. The initial crews were there within 10 minutes of the page going out, knocking the fire down. I hope people understand that these are real people volunteering their lives to help others. These people are really trying their best. I takes a special kind of person to be able to do this and keep their wits about them.”
*Editor’s Note: In the original post, we attributed credit for the photo with the smoke hanging over other businesses in downtown Fairbury to Shawna Taylor, when true credit for the photo belongs to Saril Georgi. Fairbury News Now apologizes for this error.
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