A fire broke out overnight in downtown London early Wednesday morning, damaging three upstairs apartments and two businesses in the historical district.
No one was hurt.
The blaze was reported at about 1 a.m., according to Steve Hume, safety-services director for the City of London. He said the fire apparently broke out in the middle apartment above B & J Optical, 16 S. Main St.
Smoke spread to the rear and front apartments, downstairs into the optical business, and next door into Mabe’s Clothing, 18 S. Main St.
The fire was “well involved” when firefighters arrived, according to Chief Todd Eades of the London Fire Department.
“We got a good knockdown on the initial fire, but it had been working for quite a while,” Eades said. “Some timber was completely burnt away, which is usually a pretty good indicator the fire had been there for awhile.”
The middle apartment, where the blaze began, sustained severe fire damage, Eades said.
The residents walked out of the building unharmed and are receiving assistance from the American Red Cross.
Dave Mabe, of Mabe’s Clothing, said the longtime family-owned business — owned by his mother, Martha Mabe — is “just fine,” although it endured some smoke damage.
“There might be a little stench for a little bit, but there’s just some smoke in there,” he said on the scene. “The store is fine.”
The business was closed Wednesday.
Other than some “mushy carpet” and smoke damage, B & J Optical is also in pretty good shape, an employee reported.
“It’s a lot better than I expected it to be,” she said.
Fighting a fire in a historical building presents challenges because they have often been “altered and altered and altered over the years,” Eades said.
“Sometimes, unbeknownst to the owners or us, there are safeguards put in place originally that have been compromised,” he said.
A firewall located between the two buildings “theoretically” should have kept the smoke from penetrating the Mabe’s building, Eades said.
“Over time, it has either been penetrated or compromised, for whatever reason, whether it’s naturally or on purpose. That created that issue,” he said.
There may be structural damage in the middle apartment where the fire started, Hume said, but there is likely “not a West Jefferson situation,” he added referencing a downtown village building which collapsed last month due to severe structural issues.
Hume observed a crack in the front of the building seemed to be “accentuated.”
Tom Hale, Clark County building inspector, was on the scene to access the damage Wednesday morning, he said. The city contracts with Clark County for inspection services.
The owner of the building where the blaze began is G&M Family LTD Partnership, according to the Madison County Auditor’s Office. The Springfield property associated with the partnership is owned by Montserrat C. Lau, according to the Clark County Auditor’s Office.
The London Fire Department received mutual aid from Central Townships Joint Fire District, Tri-County Fire Department, Prairie Township Fire Department, Jefferson Township Fire Department and Madison County EMS.
“We were notified and able to catch it fairly quickly,” Hume said. “Anytime you have a downtown building involved, you’re going to get a response from 10 different departments around.”
The cause of the fire is undetermined at this time, but there is no foul play suspected, Eades said.
The fire remains under investigation by the State Fire Marshal’s office.
Andrea Chaffin McKinney can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619 or via Twitter @AndeeWrites.
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