DECATUR – Not much but a pile of bricks, smoldering in the morning fog, remained of the warehouse at 1060 E. Grand Ave. on Thursday.
The conflagration that engulfed the Aaction Equipment warehouse, beginning at midafternoon on Wednesday, consumed the building, which collapsed in sections during the fire.
Decatur fire Chief Jeff Abbott estimated that firefighters would be working the scene until today to be certain the fire is completely out. One firefighter has a slight shoulder injury, but other than that, no one was hurt, he said.
Abbott met with city officials on Thursday to begin making plans to clean up the site and reopen the streets that had to be closed for safety reasons as firefighters continued to work there. The hope was to get Grand Avenue open as quickly as possible Thursday, while Calhoun, Locust and Illinois streets would likely have to remain closed for the time being.
Michael Mize Sr. lives across the street from the warehouse and was evacuated Wednesday due to the danger from the leaping flames. His house survived, sustaining heat damage to the siding and exterior, but intact.
“They sprayed the house down for about 2½ hours with four fire hoses to keep the house from burning down,” he said. “God bless the Decatur Fire Department, as they worked tireless to keep my home. We did have some damage from heat, but nothing that insurance can't take care of.”
Hope Academy is only two blocks from the site, but school went on as usual Thursday.
“There was a routing change for some buses because of the streets being blocked, but that didn't cause any difficulty,” said Kendall Briscoe, Decatur School District spokeswoman. “They cannot smell the smoke at the school.”
From the early 1900s, the building was the home of Faries Mfg. Co., which made kitchen cabinets, lamps, mirrors, bird cages and stands, cuspidors and, during World War II, secured a $225,000 contract to build parts for ordnance primers, then the largest defense contract at a local facility. That would be about $3.5 million in today's dollars.
The business was founded by local inventor Robert Faries, credited in a 1901 edition of the Decatur Herald with inventing nearly all of the manufacturing machines in the plant.
At its height of production, the company employed two full shifts of workers and had a second plant, but demand for its products fell off in the late 1940s and 1950s, and the business sold the building to Sol Tick & Co. in 1955 and moved to Elkhart, Ind. It was under new ownership by then and most of its products and processes had been sold. Previous owner Willam J. Grady died in 1968 at age 92.
In the 1970s, the F.W. Means Co., an industrial linens supply firm, occupied the site and the entire 1000 block of East Grand Avenue. The company dealt with numerous labor disputes and even faced an indictment by a federal grand jury in 1968 for antitrust violations.
In recent years, the building has been owned by Robert Powell and housed Aaction Equipment, which distributed new and used restaurant equipment. The building was also used for storage.