With a massive fire in downtown Plattsmouth contained, the ice-encased shell of a historic building posed a new threat Friday night. The unstable frame was in danger of collapsing. Streets in the area remained closed.
It took firefighters from Plattsmouth, Bellevue, Murray, Ralston, La Vista, Omaha, Louisville and Offutt Air Force Base several hours to extinguish a massive fire in downtown Plattsmouth Friday morning.
It's believed the flames started inside a wall of the Quart House Pub at the corner of 4th and Main around 11 p.m. Thursday and quickly spread. Three other businesses, the Plattsmouth Chiropractic Center, Cass Family Medicine and Main Street Jewelers, plus apartments above the bar, were destroyed. No serious injuries were reported.
Mark Morehead, the owner of the Quart House, said, “The bartender and the patron were closing up for the night - 11:45. She was getting ready to close up. She smelled smoke.”
Morehead was on scene within minutes but quickly realized his pub was fully engulfed.
One of the walls of the 130-year-old structure collapsed around 2 a.m. “It's gonna be in the 1800s when it was built, don't know if it was under the historical registry," said Plattsmouth Fire Chief Mike Wilson. “We did have one female occupant in the apartment complex up above the bar here. Got her checked out, she's been treated and released.”
The building burned once before, near the turn of the 20th century. It was rebuilt but by all accounts it can’t be salvaged.
Charles Jones, with the Plattsmouth Main Street Association, told us, "We don't quit. This is a community that has gone through a lot of adversity. Five years ago Plattsmouth was known as a dirty little river city. It is not that way anymore. It is gorgeous out there and people who come here and see it let us know. We are happy to have them."
The key landmark in a recently thriving downtown district is gone. Ice from water used to fight the fire coats the building and most everything else nearby.
Jones could only stand by and watch crews contain the hotspots.
“The fire chief tells me that this is a devastating fire for multiple reasons. First, the building is an historical landmark from the 1880s. Second, they poured multi-millions of dollars into this downtown redevelopment.”
As crews worked to extinguish the flames in the bitter cold, water froze almost immediately, posing a hazard for firefighters, who worry water could freeze inside the hoses before it can douse the flames. The National Weather Service says Plattsmouth temperatures hovered around zero with wind chills reaching -14 degrees.
“We've been putting down a lot of oil dry to keep the lines clear and keep the water from freezing on us,” said Chief Wilson. “Nebraska state fire marshal is on the scene with us, he's been here for about the past hour and once we've got everything extinguished he'll start his investigation.”
Dan Rohan runs Rohan Photography, just down the street from the fire and he told us, “We will just bounce back. We always do."
He's hopeful because the downtown district has already bounced back from one fire in the area, once before.
Rohan said, “It is pretty depressing. This isn't the first big fire we've had down here. We had the Reilly Hotel that was down on the other corner. That burned in '61."
But resilience was evident on Friday.
Charles Jones said, "We take disaster and make something out of it, because you can't just sit there and say woe is me. This is a community that decides to do something, and turn that into a positive somehow."
Mayor Mike Bowman says it could be some time before the building is demolished, or the street is opened back up. To move forward, they have to work with several insurance companies that came with the different businesses. The mayor added that with so much ice and cold days ahead, that could factor against them as well.