By TIM HORAN
The cause of the fire that destroyed the historic Kirby House last Wednesday will be found, a confident Abilene Fire Chief Bob Sims said Tuesday.
It just may take some time.
Today, a week after a call came in at 6:02 p.m. that the popular restaurant was on fire, inspectors will begin tearing away the top of the house, trying to make it safe to get inside.
“Once they get the top floors off, they are hoping to save some of the basement area floor,” Sims said. “That’s where they are concentrating where this fire started - in the basement.
“It will be a slow process getting it down. It might not be finished tomorrow. They might have to start tearing some of the other parts down,” the fire chief added.
He said it could be Thursday or Friday before they get inside.
“They” will be a representative of the state fire marshal’s office and the investigator with the insurance company and local officials.
Sims said the state fire marshal has been on site and thinks the basement is where the fire that destroyed the historic home started.
“It’s pretty obvious where it started,” he said. “The basement is all burned up. If you look in the front door, you can see a hole in the floor where the fire came up out of the basement and went straight up the stairway to the second and third floor. If you look in the basement windows, you can see that the fire was concentrated in the basement and it came up.
“There is a washer and a dryer down there, a hot water heater, a furnace and whatever else a basement will hold,” Sims said. “Their main concentration will be the washer and dryer and the furnace. They will dissect that if they have to. They will pull a whole unit out and if they are not happy with what they see, they pack it up and send it to an engineering firm.
“They will find a cause, especially the insurance company,” he said.
Sims said that since there was nobody in the building because it closed at 2 p.m. in anticipation of a snowstorm, the fire could have festered for a long time before smoke was spotted and firemen called to the scene.
Firemen from four fire departments were called to the scene. The fire actually burned through the night until the copula could be torn down Thursday morning. The fact that the fire burned that long probably led to the complete destruction of the home originally build 128 years ago, he said.
“An early detection system would have been a key to saving that restaurant,” Sims said. “But there are not very many businesses in Abilene with fire alarms.”
Larry Hatteberg was headed to Abilene Wednesday morning to film a segment of “Hatteberg’s People”, a feature on the Wichita TV station KAKE. He was focusing on the Kirby House story. However, slick roads kept the crew in Wichita.