Downtown on fire

I got a call about 5:30 this morning from my neighbor Carmel. “Paul, get up to the rooftop! Downtown is on fire! You gotta come see!” So I threw some clothes on and raced up there. This is what I found:

This is the old Jolly Royal building, next door to the Lincoln American Tower on Court Square. I was told that the First United Methodist Church at Second and Poplar (which is several blocks away) had burned, and embers from that fire had blown over and caught this building on fire. I can believe it; embers were blowing all over the place, and we’re lucky my building and many others downtown didn’t catch on fire too. For a while we had to remain in the glassed-in part of the rooftop because of the embers.

A few minutes after I arrived on the rooftop, the burning building collapsed, sending a fireball nearly the size of the 20-story Lincoln American Tower into the air. Here’s what the building looked like afterward:

Here’s a pic of what it looked like in the morning. Several small fires started in the Lincoln American Tower, but were confined to the wood window frames and some paint on the roof.

About 7:30 I walked up to Court Square. The sidewalks were covered with ashes, as shown in the pic below. I talked to Tom Shelton of Shelton Clothiers, and he said the sidewalks were covered with ash as far south as his store, about 5 blocks south of the fire.

The firefighters were on the ground, inspecting the damage.

Then the Lowenstein Building, on the other side of the Lincoln American Tower facing Main Street, caught on fire.

The shell of the building that burned and collapsed looks like it may fall on the law office next door. When I left Court Square, the firefighters were discussing the best way to safely pull it down.

A view of the shell of the building from the other direction:

A close-up of the corner of the destroyed building:

Firefighters and Red Cross representatives survey the damage.

Whew. What a mess. But like I said, we’re lucky that all of Downtown didn’t go up in flames, and we’re lucky that no one was injured.