Fire destroys Fred's

Thursday, April 5, 2007
This photo, taken by Piggott resident Heather Roberts, shows the Fred's store fully ablaze. This shot was taken from just southeast of the store, after the blaze broke through the roof of the structure. (Photo by Heather Roberts)

Fanned by strong southerly winds, a fire of unknown origin destroyed the Piggott Fred's store last Tuesday night. The historic building was a total loss, and was scheduled to be demolished this week to make room for a new structure at the same location.

The old building, located at the corner of Main and Thornton Streets, had been the original Irby Ford Sales back in the 50s, it later housed Corrine's Café, and at one time was the location for the government agency offices such as the Soil Conservation Service. The structure had also been a grocery and variety store before Fred's took over the location.

Fire personnel were first summoned to the scene just after ten o'clock and found a blaze just inside the front doors of the building.

"When we arrived on the scene there was red fire just to the right of the exit door," Piggott Fire Chief John Harlan noted. "We thought we had gotten to it soon enough, and that we might have it in hand, but once it got into the wiring it really spread."

For about an hour the blaze was contained within the building, but just after 11, the fire burst through the roof. The fire continued, whipped by strong winds, eventually consuming most of the north side of the store. It was in this area of the business that most of the flammable materials were located, and small explosions could be heard up to several blocks away.

By early the next morning the fire was limited to just a few hotspots, as firefighters were summoned back to the scene several times. Also, early last Wednesday, one fireman was transported from the scene to Piggott Community Hospital where he was treated and released.

"I heard about it early Wednesday morning," Piggott Mayor Gerald Morris observed. "I was in Springfield, Mo. with SPA, West-Star and the coalition. I started making, and receiving, calls early that morning. We were exploring the possibility for Fred's to keep a presence in the community as it rebuilt." Morris noted that the loss is felt throughout the community. "I felt very badly about the fire," he said. "They are well thought of and they are also a great source of revenue for the city through their sales tax."

The mayor added that later in the week he met with company officials, and that they had indicated to him that the local store has always been a profitable location, and that they intended to re-build as soon as possible. A spokesperson for Fred's told The Times Monday morning that the company not only intends to rebuild, but would also like to build a larger facility than the one destroyed in last week's blaze.

Manager Jennifer Champion reported that there were 11 people employed at the local store, and that all should be offered temporary positions at other locations in the area. She added, "Fred's will take care of us."

The Piggott Fire Department received mutual aid from Greenway, Pollard and Kennett firefighters as they battled the blaze. Personnel were also hampered by strong winds, and a few small thundershowers, throughout much of the night.

The fire also prompted officials to cut power to a section of the city for a time. A lineman noted that one of the main feeder lines, which runs along the north end of the building, was shut-down for fears that it may burn and fall. As a result much of eastern Piggott, and south of the square, was without power for about three hours.

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