NEW INFO: Olive Hill Fire Raises Many Questions

By: Hanna Francis, Randy Yohe Email
By: Hanna Francis, Randy Yohe Email

UPDATE 2/27/12 @ 5:30 p.m.
OLIVE, HILL, Ky. (WSAZ) -- There are still a lot of questions Monday night after a weekend fire destroyed a family business and two apartments in Olive Hill.

Not too long ago, the town lost several businesses to devastating floods. Now people are asking again -- can Olive Hill even survive?

A restoration project in a long abandoned building next door had Stephen Parker, a business owner in town, optimistic -- until Saturday night. He knew people from near and far were still coming in to buy carpet -- but couldn't foresee this tragedy.

Parker's family started the carpet company 75 years ago -- now, the building has been reduced to rubble and ash.

“I thought I was protected on three sides," Parker said. "I'm just glad that no one got hurt, no firefighters were injured.”

Three people living in upstairs apartments say they barely escaped with their lives -- losing all they owned.

The Olive Hill Fire Chief says the blaze started in the building next door. On Monday, the scene was still too hot for inspectors to get inside. The Chief says no one called 911, and says it was unknown how long the building was burning before someone finally knocked on the nearby fire house door.

WSAZ.com asked Chief Wes Gilliam if it might have made a difference if he had gotten a 911 call sooner.

"Yes, anytime you can get on a fire scene quicker, it can make a difference,” Gilliam said.

Numerous Olive Hill businesses are now vacant after numerous floods.

WSAZ.com asked Stephen Parker if he'll rebuild or reopen, or if Olive Hill can survive this major loss -- the answer was the same.

“I don't know," Parker said. "I've got minimal insurance; I'm 57-years-old -- I just don't know.”

As to this hard hit community's survival, Parker says -- he hopes so.

There was no fire sprinkler system in the near century-old building.
And, there is still a question about whether smoke detectors were working.

On Tuesday, a State Fire Marshal will begin searching for a cause.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



ORIGINAL STORY 2/26/12
OLIVE HILL, Ky. (WSAZ) -- A massive fire in Olive Hill took out two commercial properties and multiple apartments over the weekend.

The fire happened on Main Street. Firefighters say they got the call about 11:30 Saturday night. It took more than seventy firefighters and more than twelve hours to put out.

"Our little community has been devastated by flooding and now this fire, it's a big impact to our little community," Olive Hill Fire Chief Wes Gilliam said. "And it's another business that's gone, it's pretty devastating to us."

Only one of the commercial properties were occupied, Parker's Carpet. The store was family owned, in business for about 75 years, firefighters say. Of the apartments, two were occupied. Those families lost nearly everything.

Olive Hill is no stranger to tragedy. Two years ago, massive flooding swallowed up the town -- in the same place the fire happened.

"It's completely devastating to the town because there's people involved," Deborah Stevens said. "One thing in town affects everybody."

Stevens said she was driving by and saw the fire Saturday night before the fire department even arrived. She said she called 911. "Everybody was panicking, everybody was in town, looking. Completely astonishing to see how high the flames got," Stevens said.

"Our small community has been through a lot, but it's brought us together," Chief Gilliam said. "Another devastating blow to us but our community is full of great people and we'll pull together and get through it."

The town's phone service, Windstream, was also disrupted. The main fiber-optic lines for the service were in front of and behind the building. They were destroyed. The company has been working to restore service.


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