MOUNT VERNON — A basement fire early this morning at 201 S. Main St. spread throughout the building as firefighters from Knox County fought the blaze.
The Mount Vernon Fire Department responded to a call of light smoke coming from the basement of the building on the southwest corner of South Main and West Gambier streets at approximately 6:30 a.m.
According to MVFD Assistant Chief Chris Menapace, the fire started in the basement of the building which is used for storage. A gas line ruptured, which helped fuel the fire, Menapace said.
Mutual aid was called in from College Township Fire Department, Eastern Knox County Joint Fire District, Fredericktown Community Fire District, Central Ohio Joint Fire District and Homer Volunteer Fire Department.
At a press conference, Menapace said the fire was mostly contained and firefighters were working to keep the fire from spreading to other buildings on the block.
“We currently have defensive hose lines in place. We are trying to save the new (Mount Vernon Nazarene University) building pushing the fire back in the original fire building,” Menapace said.
Mount Vernon Nazarene University classes in the building adjacent to the fire in downtown Mount Vernon have been canceled for today.
Denny Taylor, MVNU facilities management director, said the basements of the buildings on the block do connect.
“Right now,” he reported around 10 a.m., “the biggest concern for us is water damage, just because they’ve been pumping thousands of gallons of water in there. It looks like things are contained, but it is still smoking and burning down there.”
Further assessment of possible damage will be made once the Mount Vernon fire department determines it is safe to enter the building, he said.
“There is no fire and no heat,” in the MVNU building, Menapace said.
Thick black smoke rolled out the front door of the building as firefighters battled the fire. At one point, the sirens went off to clear all fire personnel from the building.
“The floor started to collapse and we bailed,” FCJFD Chief Scott Mast told the News’ Virgil Shipley.
In addition to the Bodi N Balance facility on the first floor, there are doctors’ and other offices on the second floor of the building, according to Menapace.
Menapace confirmed the three-alarm fire was contained and assessments were taking place to check the integrity of the building.
No determination as to the cause could be reported at press time as 45 to 55 firefighters were still on the scene.
According to the Knox County Auditor’s Office, the building, built in 1930, is owned by John and Mary Lou Montenery of Mount Vernon. Calls to the couple were not returned at press time.
Many downtown businesses closed this morning including the main office of First-Knox National Bank and The Alcove.
Power on the west side of South Main has been shut off. Because of the power outage and smoke throughout the downtown, many business have closed including the main office of First-Knox National Bank, The Alcove, and Associated Insurance. Those intending to shop in downtown today should call before making the trip.