I was fortunate enough to get to cover one of the biggest fires in St. Joseph's history. We had multiple stories from multiple reporters. This was my take.
By MEGAN TILK
St. Joseph News-Press
The effects of the fire that broke out in Downtown St. Joseph Wednesday afternoon could be felt over much of the city.
As onlookers began to appear from all directions, concerns began to build. The almost 90-degree heat, combined with the smoke and water from the fire, forced many businesses nearby to shut down for the day. It also made the work of the almost 30 firefighters that much more difficult.
Joe Colwell, a Heartland Regional Medical Center paramedic, was called to the scene to help make sure the firefighters remained in good condition.
“The biggest concern with something like this is heat exhaustion and burns,” Mr. Colwell said.
Paramedics monitored each firefighter’s blood pressure and made sure they were hydrated. Two firefighters were taken to a medical clinic due to superficial facial burns that weren’t considered to be serious, said Battalion Chief Russell Moore.
Volunteers from the Salvation Army and the Red Cross also were on scene, handing out drinks and snacks to those fighting the blaze. A volunteer with the Salvation Army said more than 50 bottles of water and Gatorade were used.
The blaze was an estimated 2,000 degrees, according to Fire Chief Jack Brown.
Onlooker Brian Phillippe chose to use his break from work as a chance to witness the fire.
“We have a half hour, so we thought we’d come here,” Mr. Phillippe said.
Smoke from the fire could been seen from Country Squire, where he works, at Frederick Boulevard and Buckingham Street. Mr. Phillippe said he received several picture messages on his cell phone from other onlookers already on scene while he was still at work, so he decided to come Downtown.
Power was cut to some of the businesses in the area, including to Pony Express Bank on Felix Street. However, power was restored shortly thereafter.
Several of the buildings on Seventh Street, though unaffected by fire, smelled of smoke on the interior.
Ashley Haer showed up for work at American Family Insurance on Seventh Street just after the fire started. The five-story building was downwind from the fire.
Ms. Haer found her office filled with smoke. Her manager instructed her to evacuate the office once the power went out. She took it as an opportunity to witness the fire.
Ms. Haer returned to work about three hours later.
“I know there was some smoke and water issues with the fifth floor, but nothing other than a little smoke down here,” Ms. Haer said.
The building just received a new roof last fall, Ms. Haer said, but she was unsure of any damage at the time of the fire.
Legal Aid of Western Missouri, which is located on the fourth floor of the building, remained open through the fire, but with the help of open windows, employees managed to do some ventilating of their own.