This weekend’s fire forced Lawrence’s Heritage Tractor out of its home at its busiest time of year.
“We are going to rebuild,” store manager Tim Deneke said Monday morning, tromping through puddles of water, charred piles of insulation and broken glass in and around the burned-out building at 1110 E. 23rd St.
But for now, he said, staff is moving undamaged tractors and equipment across the street to 1105 E. 23rd, where they will be available for sale. He said Heritage is referring customers who need equipment serviced to its other locations in Baldwin City, Olathe and Topeka, where most of its employees are being relocated, too.
More than two dozen firefighters and 10 trucks battled the fire for more than three hours Saturday night.
One firefighter was injured, said James King, division chief and fire marshal with Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical. He said the firefighter was taken to the hospital for treatment of heat exhaustion and released without staying overnight.
As of Monday, the fire department had not ruled on what caused the fire or issued a damage estimate.
The fire destroyed the business’s showroom up front and ravaged through the shop area in back — including melting holes in the roof — although much of the metal building’s exterior remained intact.
The fire was reported just before 7 p.m. and declared under control about 11:30 p.m., King said. He said fire investigators completed their work at the scene on Sunday and were still interviewing witnesses on Monday.
At this time there is nothing suspicious about the fire, King said.
A neighboring business employee told the Journal-World he saw a utility pole fall onto the roof of Heritage Tractor, heard a loud “explosion” and then saw flames.
King said that was being investigated as a possible cause of the fire.
He said the Westar Energy pole, located on the east side of Heritage Tractor, did fall onto the roof. There were two transformers on the pole that would have caused popping sounds or a bang when it fell, King said.
King said more popping and explosion sounds would have come from the business’s parts storeroom — located right under where the pole fell and home to a number of aerosol cans such as lubricants, spray oils and paint cans.
King said there were some propane and gas cylinders in the shop area, where repairs are done, but that none of those exploded.
King said investigators also don’t know what caused the pole to fall but that it definitely wasn’t weather; Saturday evening was still and clear.
“That’s another area that we’re looking at closely,” King said.
Deneke said he was grateful Heritage had closed for the day.
“We’re just very fortunate it wasn’t during business hours, because it fell in the parts department,” he said. “Somebody could have been hurt.”
King said heavy fire was already coming through the roof of the building when firefighters arrived.
Because of that and a roof construction style that is susceptible to collapsing under fire conditions, firefighters quickly decided to fight the fire from outside instead of sending crews in, King said.
The Overland Park Fire Department helped cover other calls in the city while local crews battled the Heritage Tractor blaze, King said.