By anyone’s standards it was a unique landmark. But all that changed in the early hours of Thursday morning when flames engulfed one of downtown Fairburn’s large historic buildings along U.S. Highway 29, resulting in the loss of several businesses. No injuries were reported in the fire that is under investigation.
City Administrator Jim Williams said employees at Oz Pizza reported smelling smoke between 1-2 a.m.
Firefighters arrived at the location on the corner of Campbellton Street and Hwy. 29 and began fighting the blaze that had several stores in the two- and three-story building engulfed in flames. Strong winds at the time played havoc with firefighter’s work, Fairburn Fire Dept. spokesman Stephan Hood said Thursday afternoon, pointing to the upper floors of the burned structure.
“The fire was substantially blowing out of the second story windows,” Hood said.
Williams said the situation for firefighters fighting the blaze at the 100 year-old structure was exacerbated when the roofs over some of the storefronts collapsed, sending bricks flying.
As for an appraisal of the situation, Hood said the roof and second floor of Oz Pizza, situated on the corner, was lost to the blaze. The condition of the building occupied by other businesses was even more devastating. The salon, antique mall and offices on the rear of the building were gutted, as was much of the three-story part of the building that was home to the Casablanca Restaurant.
Hood said contributing factors to the extent of the damage caused by the fire were the age of the building and the significant winds.
“It was a big loss but it was a good stop (to the fire) given the fire load,” Hood said, adding that the fire was brought under control at approximately 5 a.m.
In all probability several of the stores will be determined to be a total loss, Williams said.
Those familiar with Fairburn’s historic downtown area will easily recognize the significant loss to the city.
“This was a terrific blow to the quality of the downtown area,” Williams said.
Firefighters were still keeping an eye on the structure late Thursday with Hwy. 29 cordoned off and traffic re-routed around downtown and the ashes still smoldering as investigators searched for the cause of the blaze.
Both Hood and Fire Chief Jody Weller praised the coordinated effort by multiple fire departments that included units from Peachtree City, Fayette County, Palmetto, Union City, Clayton County, Fulton County and Atlanta.
Hood also said the Methodist Church pitched in during the fire operation by providing food and shelter for firefighters.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation by fire marshals from both local and state agencies, state arson specialists and agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.