Blaze Destroys Downtown Building

May 15, 2003
Posted at: 10:46 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, Ark. -- Many Jonesboro business owners will be spending their Friday cleaning up after a nearby building was gutted by a fire Thursday afternoon.

Every Jonesboro active duty firefighter, and reserves were called in to fight a commercial building fire off Huntington Avenue and Union Street in downtown Jonesboro.

Thanks to the skill, and quick response, of firefighters, the blaze did not spread to any other buildings. They battled to save the warehouse owned by Bill Ebbert, as well as the businesses around it.

"Those buildings are built kind of attached, next to each other," said Captain Leonard Jadrich of the Jonesboro Fire Department. "So that was our main concern."

However, for one family who owns a business next to the fire, Thursday was an unpleasant reminder of a day almost 40 years ago.

"As soon as we realized there was a fire down the street, we immediately started sealing off every opening to our building," said Mike Massanelli, who owns a dry cleaning business adjacent to the burned-out building.

As flames and thick grey smoke towered over downtown Jonesboro, Massanelli and his family members worked to protect their customers' clothing and belongings.

"You know, fire is one thing, but in our business even a little smoke is bad," he said.

Jadrich says a person inside the building down from Massanelli's noticed flames in the ceiling while he and others were burning building materials in a fireplace.

"There's a possibility that the flue in the chimney might have been cracked," Jadrich said.

Inside old buildings like the Ebbet building, smoke can seep in many different places. Their largest problem, according to investigators was the air inlet vents.

"We have some smoke in our building," Massanelli said. "Not much."

Ironically, Massanelli and his family members specialize in restoring fabrics after they've been damaged by smoke.

"Unfortunately, I didn't really want to have to do it to our business," he said. "But we might have to do it to some degree."

Forty years ago, the Massanelli's have survived a fire of their own. But Thursday, they are just glad their experience this time around isn't to the same extreme.