Monday, February 2, 2004

Six businesses in Ky. warehouse are ashes



By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FLORENCE - Flames still flickered Sunday morning under the collapsed tin roof of the old Boone-Kenton Warehouse on U.S. 42.

Firefighters were figuring out how to deconstruct the mess and business owners were assessing damages.

Both said the same thing: the building was a complete loss and damages would run into the millions of dollars.

map The old tobacco warehouse, home to six businesses, burned Saturday night with flames reaching hundreds of feet into the air. Firefighters were unable to enter the building because the conditions were too dangerous - the tin roof collapsed, propane tanks in the warehouse kept exploding, and the Amish furniture and the carpeting inside the building provided plenty to burn.

"We don't have any idea how it started or when it started," said Florence fire chief Jim McMillen as he stood outside the warehouse's smoldering skeleton Sunday morning.

"The weather just made it more difficult for our firefighters to operate the equipment."

After receiving the fire call at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Florence firefighters sped from their fire station just around the corner. By the time they arrived, flames were shooting out the roof.

About 50 firefighters from four Kentucky departments responded Saturday night into Sunday morning.

The fire department on Sunday was planning to lift the collapsed roof with a crane. Only then could they get into the building, figure the fire's cause and begin deconstructing the ruins.

"It's just going to be a mess going through it," said Isaac Potter, operations manager for Viking Supply, which sells underground water lines and sewage systems. "We had propane gas tanks in there, four forklifts, and when they went off, they went off like a bomb. Just thank God no one got hurt."

Fire officials said every business owner had insurance. Insurance company representatives at the warehouse Sunday said damages would run into the millions of dollars.

Peggy Partin, owner of Peg's Amish-Made Furniture, has a retail store next door to the warehouse. It was untouched by the fire. But she also had 40,000 square feet of warehouse space storing various types of Amish furniture.

"It was filled to the hilt," Partin said. "We're just seeing where we're at right now, seeing what we've lost.'' Pat Holubetz, general manager of Cincinnati Wholesale Supply, which sells salt, de-icing equipment, seed and fertilizer, spent much of Sunday trying to find open warehouse space in the region to store a shipment of salt expected today.

Holubetz said the company will be able to serve its customers out of its other office in Fairfield, but still needs warehouse space soon.

"Obviously this is our busy time," he said, sitting in his heated pickup truck as the pungent odor of smoke crept in.

"(Selling salt) is our livelihood during winter, for sure.''

We just need to secure a warehouse base, whether it's temporary or permanent, then we need to get our hands around what inventory we had."

Businesses destroyed in Florence fire

Boone-Kenton Warehouse

Tim Gurren Wholesale Flooring, Inc.

Viking Supply

Cincinnati Wholesale Supply

M & D Insulation Company

Peg's Amish Furniture

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E-mail rforgrave@enquirer.com




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