The fire went from “a little smoke” near the back of the Dollar General store in Trenton to having flames leaping from the roof in no time at all, witnesses say. There were no injuries in the fire that flattened the building.
“There was no chance with the wind,” said Ryan Lampert, 34, of Trenton. He lives in a second-floor apartment across from the store at 532 E. Broadway, near the city’s water tower. Lampert was outside cleaning a trailer when he saw the smoke about 1 p.m., and said firetrucks had arrived at about that time.
“A couple trucks were here, and they just kept on coming,” he said. Lampert was watching the firefighters work with his son Chance, 3.
Fire Chief Steve Davis, of Sugar Creek Township Fire Department, said the department requested help from Aviston Fire Department and Emerald Mound-Lebanon. Clinton County and Sugar Creek provided emergency management and medical services. Davis said about 50 emergency workers were on the scene of the fire, with the departments bringing eight trucks.
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He said half the Dollar General’s roof was in flames when the first trucks arrived; no one was in the building and firefighters did not try to enter it. He suspects the fire started in the back, in or near an area for flattened cardboard. He said state fire investigators would determine the cause.
“The biggest challenge was the wind,” he said, estimating gusts of 45 to 50 miles an hour. The National Weather Service had issued a wind advisory for the afternoon.
The three Dollar General employees in the store at the time were evaluated by medical crews and deemed well, Davis said. A woman identifying herself as the store manager declined comment, citing corporate policy. She remained on the scene more than two hours after the fire started, watching the firefighters continue to pour water onto the smoking shell.
Once most of the flames were out and parts of the outer walls remained, a track hoe from Markus Excavating arrived to move the debris to expose any remaining hot spots.
Two hours after the fire started, the front of the 7,320-square-foot structure was flattened, as was most of the buildings sides. Most of the interior was a charred mess, with a few items from the front of the store remaining almost recognizable.
Mayor Kyle Jones said the building went up in 2002, and Dollar General had occupied it since about 2011.
“It’s kind of an isolated building, so with the wind today that’s a benefit,” he said.
“It’s going to have an impact on the city,” he said. The store was in a Tax Increment Funding district, Jones said the city would be working with the property owner and hopes the store rebuilds.
Davis said firefighters do walk-throughs of commercial buildings including the wood-and-siding Dollar General, but as a volunteer department they do not inspect buildings. He said they frequently train with Aviston, Emerald Mound and other area departments.
“You get better at working together with other departments, training together to prepare for events like this,” he said.
Davis said the building was dry, but the ground was soft from recent snow and getting softer from the amount of water poured onto the building.
“I think we have a firetruck stuck,” he said, indicating Emerald Mound’s aerial truck with a ladder extended to pour water down. “But that’s the least of it, that’s not a problem.”