MOULTON, AL (WAFF) - It’s being called the worst fire in Lawrence County’s history, according to Moulton’s fire chief.
So far, four buildings are destroyed and the fire is still going nearly 24 hours later.
Chief Ryan Jolly says the city was close to running out of water while fighting the fire Monday night, and that’s just one of several problems the Moulton Fire Department has battled.
The city has returned to a non-critical water level.
Jolly said they used so much water from 8 p.m. to early Tuesday that the town almost had no water.
Six different fire crews have been battling this blaze for the last day.
Moulton Fire got the call around 8:12 Monday, and have been working around the clock to get the hot spots out.
Fire is still burning at Court Street Grill, where the blaze originated.
Deja Vu Salon, next to the Court Street Grill, is destroyed, along with Tucker’s Automotive, which is on the south east side of the restaurant.
Decatur Fire, Courtland Fire, Hillsboro and several more departments assisted with more apparatus and aerial trucks. Jolly says without their help and advanced equipment, the damage could’ve been worse than it is.
He also says water became a crucial issue as crews tackled the fires late into the morning.
The owner of Court Street Grill, Art Moss says eight employees were closing the restaurant when they smelled smoke. They called 911 and when the fire department arrived, smoke was billowing out of the windows.
Investigators say it started upstairs near the west side of the building.
The Court Street Grill and the Deja Vu Salon were destroyed. The Willow Tree, the antique store to the west of Court Street Grill received smoke damage.
The owner of the Willow Tree Store, Craig Johnston says he was there when the smoke was pouring out of the top of the building.
Moulton Fire Department told Johnston they most likely will have smoke damage.
Tucker’s Automotive collapsed and was destroyed. Tucker’s also had living quarters in it that were destroyed.
Johnathon Horton was nearby when the fire started. “When I first got here, there was just smoke coming out of the first window on the far left. I stayed here because I knew people who lived here and had the business behind it.” Horton told WAFF 48 News. “I stayed with them and as it kept getting bigger and bigger we eventually went back there and started pulling all of their belongings and equipment and stuff out to try to save it and as soon as we got the last thing out, the top of the attic wall collapsed onto the business roof.”
Heather Smith was also in the area Monday night when the fire began. “I saw it come out and the building was tremendously on fire, so we went to the back and we watched the wall collapse. It all came tumbling down then smoke came up, it just exploded in smoke.” She said. “I went to the grill and I had friends who worked there. They’re pretty upset because of the atmosphere but they’ve just got to start over. It’s pretty sad because there’s been a lot of tragedy around here and it just adds on.”
The owner of the Court Street Grill, Art Moss says Moulton Square was pretty much shut down until July 2017, when he opened up the grill and says it revived Moulton Square.
The Court Street Grill was a 25,000 sq foot building that employed 23 people. Moss says they cooked everything from scratch and even had hand cut steaks.
Moss says they want to rebuild if they can or at least build a new restaurant in Moulton.
The fire chief says they continue to battle hotspots and fatigue is starting to settle in for crew members.
The majority of the work is focused on the automotive shop right now though the back part of the grille is still a trouble area as well.
Several fire departments including Caddo Midway, Courtland, Dectaur, Moulton, Hillsboro and Chalybeate all responded to the scene.