Fire ravages McKenzie

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Residents of McKenzie awoke to tragedy Monday morning.

Around 2 a.m. a fire erupted on McKenzie’s main strip destroying three of the town’s buildings.

The flames devoured the Palace, the old hardware store, and another vacant building leaving them nothing but smoke-bellowing shells.

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Officials believe that the fire began at the Palace. However, its cause won’t be determined until further investigation.

&uot;We really don’t know what happened right now,&uot; said Assistant State Investigator Ed Paulk. &uot;It will probably be Wednesday before we can get a good look because they are still fighting it and it is still hot.&uot;

The rain and poor weather conditions will likely hinder the investigation. On the other hand, the moisture was mildly beneficial.

&uot;It helped and it hurt,&uot; said McKenzie Fire Chief Allen Smith. &uot;It helped with the fire, but it may hurt us in determining the cause.&uot;

When McKenzie firemen arrived on the scene they were confronted with a tough situation.

&uot;It was fully involved when we got here,&uot; said Smith. &uot;It was too risky to send men in at the top and was too hot at the bottom.&uot;

Because of the conditions the fire was able to spread.

Fortunately, both the Georgiana and FIW volunteer fire departments arrived to help.

With all three units working as a team they were able to contain the fire and extinguish it.

Because the fire involved a hardware store there were safety issues. Oils and ammunition inside posed the risk of explosions to the firemen.

&uot;There were a few explosions,&uot; said Smith. &uot;Luckily there was nothing major and everyone was okay.&uot;

McKenzie Mayor Betty Stinson had nothing but praise for the efforts put forth in the blaze.

&uot;We have one of the best crews that there are,&uot; said Stinson. &uot;Everyone. All of our city employees are just wonderful.&uot;

Stinson also wished to express her gratitude for those who helped out.

&uot;The Georgiana Volunteers and the Friendship were all a great help,&uot; said Stinson. &uot;We can’t thank them enough for their efforts.&uot;

By mid-morning the fire was completely out with the exception of a few hot spots.

However, the damage to the small town of McKenzie may take a while to mend.

&uot;This is just devastating,&uot; said Town Clerk and Firefighter Tina Brooks. &uot;It is just awful that something like this has to happen.&uot;

For McKenzie, the healing process may take a long time.

However, Stinson plans to lead her citizens through the dark period.

&uot;There is a blessing in everything that happens,&uot; said Stinson. &uot;There is a silver lining in every cloud. We just have to find it.&uot;

Stinson felt the people would find a way to get through the tough period.

&uot;We won’t quit,&uot; said Stinson. &uot;We have been through hard times before and worked through it. We won’t quit this time either.&uot;

McKenzie must now play the waiting game.

The town must now assess the damage and hope through insurance and hard work they may reestablish a downtown area to take pride in.