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Fire-damaged building in Richland will have to be torn down, chief says
Fire-damaged building in Richland will have to be torn down, chief says

Firefighters use ladder trucks to pour water on the roof of a burning Richland store.
RICHLAND, Mo. (July 5, 2010) — One of the oldest downtown buildings in Richland will probably have to be torn down as soon as possible following a Monday afternoon fire, according to Tri-County Fire Chief Rick Hobbs.

“I’ll have to tape the whole thing off tonight. On an old masonry building like this, once the bricks get hot, the mortar deteriorates and even the firefighters are in danger,” Hobbs said.

The building, known as the “Big Dollar Store,” is a seasonal artificial flower shop owned by a former Richland city administrator from the early 1990s, Daryl Durossette, and his wife. The store is mostly open around Memorial Day to sell flowers for grave decorations.

From the front, the building doesn’t look too bad apart from obvious fire damage inside. However, Hobbs said the building had a three-inch-thick tarpaper roof that burned so hot that the entire roof collapsed, taking down the back side of the building and forcing firefighters to use a city-owned backhoe to rip apart the tarpaper to extinguish the blaze.

The cause of the blaze isn’t yet known but isn’t believed to be suspicious, Hobbs said, but it spread very quickly.

“A conservation agent going to a natural cover fire in Laclede County saw smoke coming out of the front of the building. He contacted 911 to let us know there was a fire, but we had three people already at the station so we left before we even got paged out,” Hobbs said. “When we arrived, we had heavy smoke coming out the cracks of the front of the building.”

The building is internally divided into two parts. Hobbs said he had his initial crew go in the left hand side.

“They went all the way back, had heavy smoke but could not see any fire. At that point one of my crew member’s air was getting low so we got out,” Hobbs said. “When (the next crew) got in the very back, they started finding fire in the upper part on the left hand side… when Crocker got here, we had them pull the back door open and we found the fire up in the attic.”

The attic location of the blaze and the tarpaper made the blaze difficult to fight. Tri-County firefighters quickly called for additional ladder trucks from St. Robert and Fort Leonard Wood to battle the blaze.

“Three inches thick of tar paper caused the high flames,” Hobbs said.

About 50 firefighters from numerous departments responded. Tri-County firefighters sent a ladder truck, two engines, a pumper-tanker, and a heavy rescue vehicle; Crocker responded on auto-aid with a command vehicle, and engine, and a tanker. Other units responding included an engine, tanker and command vehicle from Hazelgreen, an engine and command vehicle from Waynesville, and an engine and two command vehicles from St. Robert.

Richland police, Pulaski County Ambulance District personnel, and Pulaski County Red Cross personnel assisted as well, along with the Richland and Hazelgreen fire corps, groups of volunteers who assist with fire rehab and assistance.

Hobbs said this is the first major test for the Richland Fire Corps, headed by Candace Farris, a firefighter’s wife.

“Casey’s donated 10 cases of water to them,” Hobbs said. “We’re just putting together our fire corps to help with things like this.”

The Lebanon Rural Fire Protection District sent an engine to Tri-County’s fire station to provide backup coverage for any additional fires in the rural north and west parts of the county, and the Lebanon City Fire Department sent an engine to the St. Robert station to cover Waynesville and St. Robert.

Firefighters remained at the blaze nearly six hours, finally leaving at 8:34 p.m.

Additional smoke and water damage was done to buildings on each side; CostCutters and then Richland Hardware are on the left, and a vacant building is on the right.

Richland hasn’t seen a major downtown commercial structure fire since the early 1970s, Hobbs said, but much of downtown was destroyed many years ago in a July 4 blaze caused by fireworks before the community had a fire department.

Fires in traditional downtowns are particularly difficult to fight because buildings are built next to each other and relatively narrow alleys raise the risk of spreading from one block of buildings to another.

“We’ve been real fortunate,” Hobbs said. “In 1932, half of downtown burned on the Fourth of July. Old newspaper clippings said they had the old fire bell, and sometime in the evening during fireworks, the old fire bell went off. From where Stockstill’s Pharmacy is now to where the post office is now, it all burned, and that’s why about the next year they put water system in and bought a fire truck.”

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