(February 2004) Rose Conway, owner of Hinkles Sandwich
Shop in Madison, could easily empathize with business owners in Jeffersonville.
Conway experienced a similar incident just a little more than three
years ago when a fire erupted in one of the second floor apartments
above her downtown restaurant, which is well known locally for its
of Madison edition.
"I knew what those people were going to be up against in the
next few months of their lives, said Conway.
On Dec. 19, 2000, Madison volunteer firefighters were called in to
battle the blaze at Hinkles and fortunately prevented widespread
damage. The majority of the fire damage was to the second and
third floors above the restaurant, recalled Madison fire chief
Steve Horton, whose crew prevented widespread damage from the blaze.
The building immediately to the east was the only other damaged, said
Most of the damage to the first floor of Conways building, which
housed Hinkles and two second floor apartments, was from water,
said Conway. She was later told that an estimated 200,000 gallons
were used to extinguish the fire. The water, along with smoke and
debris, left her restaurant and 99 percent of its contents in ruins.
Fortunately for Conway, the building was not a total loss. And after
four months of clean-up and repairs, she was able to welcome back
to her restaurant the loyal customers she had so dearly missed.
Many of the Jeffersonville business owners wont be so lucky.
Only a part of the facade remains of the three connected buildings
that housed Horner Novelty, a party supplies store located at 310
Spring St. Also destroyed or significantly damaged by the blaze were
businesses located at 300, 324 and 326 Spring, and a home at 121 Chestnut.
The structures, except for the home, were built in the late 1880s.
Experts have traced the cause of the fire to the Horner building.
It was electrical, said Horner vice president Greg Kloss.
A junction box within the ceiling apparently malfunctioned or
by C.A. Branham/Jeffersonville Evening News
Jan. 11 fire engulfed the entire city block.
Fed by the huge amount of combustibles, paper products and party
supplies, the fire spread quickly through the store and into adjoining
structures, leaving firefighters with an inferno nearly impossible
to extinguish. Fortunately, because of the time of the incident, most
of the buildings were unoccupied and no one was injured.
The Jeffersonville store, one of three Horner Novelty locations owned
by Chuck Mattingly, employed about 25 people and in addition to retail
merchandise housed the companys administrative offices. Built
circa 1880 according to Kloss, the building remained largely unimproved
except for cosmetic enhancements.
The Spring Street fire has left many, especially those who own old
buildings, feeling concerned. I was pretty upset to hear that
would have happened to an historic district, especially since they
put all that work into restoration, said Laura Ratcliff, who
with her husband, Tony, owns the historic Ohio Theater in downtown
Madison. She admitted that the Jeffersonville fire made her think
One of the issues concerning these and other historic towns is deterioration.
Old buildings have a lifetime, just like people do, said
Chief Horton. Electrical systems deteriorate over time.
Within a few days of the Jeffersonville fire, Horton was invited by
State Fire Marshal Andy Long to meet him on the site to examine the
charred remains of the historic buildings to see what might be learned.
It confirmed everything I know to be true about such fires in
these old buildings, Horton said upon his return. It gives
you an entirely different perspective to see the damage up close than
what you see in newspaper photos or on TV.
Complicating the concern in Madison is that many old buildings lack
protection, such as sprinkler systems and alarms. Many do not always
meet current fire codes, Horton said.
When (a building is) renovated or the occupancy type changes,
then it has to meet the code that is in effect at the time of (inspection),
Mike Flint, who renovated into apartments the former Lodge Brothers
Furniture store, said about 20 percent of his budget went toward protecting
the building from fire. That included installing a building-wide sprinkler
system, a monitoring system and alarms, and using flame retardant
construction materials, such as metal studs and flame-resistant ceiling
tiles. As a result, I think its probably the safest building
in Madison, Flint said.
by C.A. Branham/Jeffersonville Evening News
Novelty the day after the fire.
Ratcliff, who also owns Rogers Corner restaurant and the building
in between it and the theater, said the fire at Hinkles made
her especially aware of the issue. Weve double-checked
our buildings to see that fire walls go all the way up to the roof,
she said. Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are also installed
throughout, she said.
So far, luck has been with downtown Madison, said Horton. He recalled
that in the past 15 years, no major fires other than the one at Hinkles
have occurred. Hertz Shoes, however, did experience a scare last October
when smoke was noticed emanating from the ballast of a fluorescent
light fixture during a festival taking place out front on Main Street.
It could have turned into a fire if it werent taken care
of, said owner Bill Hertz, who was present at the time of the
incident and immediately called for help.
Firefighters determined the cause of the smoke and the incident was
quickly resolved. I think were very fortunate to have
a tremendous volunteer fire department, said Hertz.
In the case of a fire, the city of Madison has ready to answer calls
six fire stations, four downtown and two on the hill, said Horton.
Madison fire department officials include Horton, deputy chief Ken
Washer, battalion chiefs Dave Carlow and Bob Wilson, safety training
officer Steve Manaugh and special operations officer Jeff Watterson.
The department has 173 volunteers.
There are, of course, measures that owners of older structures can
take to reduce the chance of fire. They include making sure that electrical
and mechanical systems are in good condition, avoiding the storage
of combustibles in certain areas, like electric panel and furnace
rooms, and avoiding accumulation of rubbish, said Horton.
Should damage be sustained from a fire, the best way to be prepared
is with appropriate insurance. Countless types of policies exist,
so its important to know exactly what kind you have.
by Don Ward
Fire Chief Steve Horton.
Keep in mind, when and if there is a loss, the loss will be
settled according to what type of policy exists, said Tom Davee
of Madison Insurance Agency. The two main types of valuation are market
value and replacement value, Davee said.
Horner Novelty in Jeffersonville was insured for the replacement value
of the structure, its contents and inventory, and the computer main
frame system, according to Kloss. Also in place was a separate policy
for disruption of business.
Emotional issues aside, I would say it has gone much smoother
than personally I would have expected or thought. The insurance company
has been great to work with, Kloss said.
Horton, who knows personally Jeffersonville Fire Chief Clark Miles,
knows what the department was up against. This fire must have
burned hidden for some time, said Horton, noting the extent
of the damage by the time firefighters arrived on the scene. There
were still some smoldering fires underneath nearly a week later.
Conway, who attributed community support for helping her make it back
into business, said she hopes for the same for the business owners
in Jeffersonville. I was blown out of the water by the communitys
kindness, said Conway, counting the many people who stepped
in during and after the fire to help when they could. I really
hope those people in Jeffersonville have that kind of community support.
They have, according to Kloss. The community support has been
phenomenal, he said, citing assistance from Jeffersonville Mayor
Rob Waiz, local residents, the historical and Main Street societies,
and the city.