It’s amazing to see the devastation to the outside wall of John’s Butcher Shop, but no damage was done to the business other than the smell of smoke that permeates the air, even two weeks later.

Russell and Nancy Miller are owners of John’s Butcher Shop and also owners of the building destroyed by the fire, including the apartments above. The butcher shop sustained minor smoke and water damage and was shut down about a week, mainly for cleaning.

“The firemen tracked through with hoses to make sure the fire hadn’t come through this side,” Russell explained. “We wanted to make sure everything was clean.”

The business is up and running at full service. Miller is amazed by the fact that the awning that hangs over his building wasn’t burnt as close as it was to the fire, but he said water freezing on the awning protected it.

The building that burned was over 100 years old. Miller said because of its age, “100 years of wood drying out and away she went.” Miller believes the fire got in between the rafters and shot up in between. “Once it got up in the attic it was like a tinderbox — 100 years of drying out each summer.”

Firewall saves building

Miller had spent approximately $80,000 renovating the building, adding three new furnaces, new water heater, etc. He said they were just on the way into work when they got the call about the fire. A 24-inch-thick firewall did its job to save the butcher shop and the apartments above it. Miller said often after 100 years people have messed with the firewalls and the weights are missing but luckily that wasn’t the case for his buildings. Miller demonstrated showing a similar door downstairs how the lead weight melts at a low heat, burning the rope attached to the pulley and the door lets loose and shuts.

He said it did just that in his building “the panel was singed but that was it.”

Luckily Miler knows about his buildings — there’s a courtyard in the middle of apartments with access in and out via windows. Miller was able to lead fireman up to the courtyard to rescue a tenant.

“Abbot Martin picked up the guy and carried him out; I just showed him how to get there. Most of the fireman didn’t know the courtyard was there.”

Miller said the charred smell hanging in the air will remain until the debris is cleaned up, expected in about 10 days.

Future plans

As for future plans for rebuilding, Miller said, “There’ll be some type of rebuilding” but he’s not sure what. He is discussing ideas with Jeff Stillson and architect Brad Sechrist.

Like the Grabers, the Millers feel very fortunate and grateful to all the fireman and emergency medical personnel. “They did a great job, I don’t know how they could’ve done any different,” he said. That gratitude is extended to the neighboring communities fire departments that came to fight the blaze in such terrible conditions.

Miller said it was fortunate the building that used to house Crystal Video had just become vacant in December, making it available for the Grabers to move in.

“The Lord’s been good to us,” Miller said. “It’s sad in some ways, but you can always rebuild. We’ll still make that an attractive corner for the city.”

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