FREDERICKTOWN — Fire destroyed a building at 80-84 N. Main St. on Sunday. Some of the over 100 bystanders who watched as firefighters worked to keep the fire from spreading said the historic building housed many memories.
For those with ties to the building, and the families displaced in the blaze, the losses were personal.
“My husband bought this building about 50 years ago. He had his insurance agency here,” said Dorothy Hoovler, adding that she had many memories tied with the building that was now just partial walls with a burned out center.
Hoovler’s husband, Jerry, worked in his insurance office on the first floor for many years before retiring. He passed away in 2007.
The office of the Knox County Citizen was completely destroyed in the fire. Citizen staff members watched from behind the scene tape as their office was gutted by the flames.
Editor Penny Smith and writer Judy Divelbiss said that about 10 years’ worth of archived newspapers were lost, along with all of the paper’s computers and office equipment. Smith said she was making arrangements to use computers belonging to another paper affiliated with the Citizen to avoid delays in printing. She will be working out of the Mount Gilead office and can be reached at (419) 946-3010.
Over the years, the building has housed several businesses, including a jeweler, a sheet metal business, a church office, and The Dairy Bar and Bucky’s Restaurant — both downtown fixtures for many years.
According to Jim Wagner of the Fredericktown Area Historical Society, the building was constructed in 1914. On Sunday night, a backhoe knocked down the burned-out shell.
“You drive up Main Street, and there’s a pretty big hole,” said Fredericktown Fire Chief Scott Mast, who was at the fire scene for 12 hours.
Two families lost their homes, their belongings, and more in the fire.
Miquel and Kelly Torres lived on the second floor with four of their children, ages 11, 7, 6 and 4.
Eleven-year-old Audrey Torres, the oldest of the Torres children to escape the fire, stood in the rain wrapped in a blanket given to her by a Red Cross volunteer, huddling close to her parents.
“I’m the most upset about my animals,” Audrey said, explaining that the 1-year-old lab mix named Zack, who was feared lost in the fire, belonged to her. Three cats belonging to the family were also lost. Clarence Frye lived in another apartment on the same floor as the Torres family, along with two of his daughters and a newborn grandson.
The Fryes and the Torres family will temporarily be living with their pastor, Mike Smith of First Presbyterian of Fredericktown.
The families said they were grateful for the Smith family’s support, as well as the good wishes they received from many in their congregation.
“We don’t really know that many people, but people are coming over to talk to us,” Kelly Torres said.
Frye, a longtime volunteer at the Interchurch Social Services office in Fredericktown, is known in the Fredericktown community as someone always offering help to others. Now, he will need some of that help himself.
“My daughter is staying with me and her little baby is only about 6 pounds,” Frye said as he sat with Red Cross volunteers, trying to keep warm in the rain.
Frye said the baby boy was born prematurely and has health concerns.
Red Cross volunteer Linette Porter said Frye’s help was critical during the hurricane and power outage of 2008.
“Without him and his daughter we wouldn’t have had anything to eat,” Porter said. “He came every day; he’s such a good man.”
As the smoke began to diminish late in the afternoon, Kelly Torres thanked many who had reached out to help during the family’s ordeal. Torres said many had offered help to the family within moments of learning of the family’s situation.
She thanked each firefighter she saw.
“I wish I could thank every one of them,” she said. “We are so grateful for what they have done. I really appreciate everyone.”
Smith is coordinating efforts to provide assistance for the two families. He encouraged people who want to help the families to call him at 694-4751.
The Knox County Veterans Service Office, 422 Pittsburg Ave., Mount Vernon, is collecting clothing and household donations for both families. Amvets Post 95, 200 W. Ohio Ave., Mount Vernon, is collecting monetary donations.