Fire destroys Gordonville store

Friday, December 3, 2004

An early-morning fire destroyed Gordonville's only convenience store Thursday.

At around 4:10 a.m., a passer-by saw flames shooting from the building at the corner of Highway 25 and Route Z. The man called 911 from his cell phone.

Nine minutes later, Gordonville volunteer firefighters arrived at the scene. They found the building consumed by searing heat and light, but quickly knocked the fire back.

"Tin roof. Brick walls. It took a lot of water," said firefighter John Peters.

The East County Fire District responded as well. At one point, about 20 firefighters battled the blaze.

As dawn broke, regular customers drove by, expecting their breakfast biscuits. Instead they found a toasted building. The meat delivery driver slowed down, then just kept driving.

By noon, all that remained of this small-town cornerstone were filthy smoke vapors that drifted from the building's brick skeleton. Heavy beams had collapsed into the basement atop a burnt black heap. Two warped vending machines and a couple of newspaper racks were blackened by smoke and no longer bore brand names.

A plastic light fixture above the gas pumps had melted, forming a ghastly shape that reached toward the ground.

Lisa Sparkman, co-owner of the building, lives just a couple parcels south of the convenience store. She and her husband own the building, but leased it.

"I was about to have a heart attack," she said, recalling her first image of the blaze. "I couldn't believe what I saw.

"Gordonville needs this little place. We've got to have it." She looked over at Peters who was sitting against the fire truck's bumper. "John's got to have a place to eat. All the farmers around here, those guys come up here to eat lunch."

Gordonville is only a few miles from Cape Girardeau and Jackson. Still, many would pick up a small meal or supplies from the store when they didn't want to drive into town.

By noon, state fire marshal Butch Amann sat in an SUV, waiting for the sizzling to stop so he could examine the pieces of the hissing mess. He won't be able to investigate until a day or two.

"We've got to get some equipment," he said. "There's a lot of heavy stuff in there and we'll have to pull it out. We'll need at least a backhoe."

Amann said the gas pumps were not in danger of exploding. He said the underground tanks are sealed off unless the pumps are working. He said the sheriff's department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms will help in his investigation. The bureau helps investigate fires to commercial buildings, he said.

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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