Fire Destroys Two Byron Businesses, Damages Two Others

By: Lindsay Veremis Email
By: Lindsay Veremis Email

Fire ripped through a historic building in downtown Byron early Monday, destroying two local businesses and damaging two others.

It started around 2:00 a.m. and had crews fighting flames more than five hours.

Those in Byron say it's a big blow, for a small community.

"We all know each other, there's not a lot of small towns like this," resident Serena Cox explained. "It's just very sad to see, to have to endure and watch this. I've been here since 3:00 a.m."

Cox was watching her workplace burn. She works in a hair salon in the damaged building and says it's in rough shape, though there's a chance it can be saved.

"It's still hard to look at it," Cox said. "It's like that happened in a matter of a few hours, fire is very devastating."

The blaze started in the middle of the building in a recently-vacated apartment over Janelle's Restaurant. It spread quickly, destroying that restaurant and a next door hardware store.

"This is going to be a devastation to Byron, this was the heartbeat, this was the downtown that we have and now it's going to take a lot of money and time to get this up and running again," Burns Township Fire Chief Rick Musall said.

Eleven fire departments were called in, but there was little crews could do to halt the damage. Firefighters say the age of the building was both a blessing and a curse. Its hardy, brick construction kept it standing but its multi-layered roofing caught fire quickly like a tinder box.

The historic building has seen fire before.

"I believe it was in the 90's," Musall said. "It's prone to happen when you have rentals and restaurants."

Firefighters don't know what caused the fire yet. They're thankful no one was hurt, but say this won't be easy for Byron to move past.

"You're talking three possibly four active businesses that need to be rebuilt and in today's economy? I hope they come back," Musall added.

The fire closed Byron schools for the day. The schools pull water from the same system firefighters needed and the district didn't want to overload it.

The superintendent was also worried about thick smoke and traffic. The fire shut down one of Byron's busiest roads.

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