Heart of fire still smoking | TheUnion.com

Heart of fire still smoking

Dan BurkhartFriar Tuck's owner Greg Cook speaks Sunday at a community meeting at Nevada City City Hall.
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The fire that gutted Nevada City’s former Elks Building at the corner of Commercial and North Pine streets is contained but continues to smoke at one spot, the city’s fire chief said Sunday.

“We can’t get to the seat of (the fire),” Chief Greg Wasley told a group of 50 officials and residents at a community meeting Sunday at City Hall.

The landmark housed Friar Tuck’s Restaurant & Bar, the Herb Shop, Herb Shop Record Store, Herb Shop Deli, and Off Broadstreet theater on the ground floor. The Nevada County Probation Department and the county’s Victim/Witness Program were on the second floor.

The fire investigation continues, Wasley said. Rod Gillespie, coordinator for the Victim/Witness Program, said there is no indication it is a crime.

Two callers reported smoke around midnight Saturday, Wasley said after the meeting. Firefighters poured 1,000 gallons of water on the smoke, he said.

At 8 a.m. Sunday, a crew put a hose on the fire and let it run for three hours. The department is regularly checking the smoke and a private security firm is at the site 24 hours a day, Wasley said.

The area that is still smoking is a 3-foot circle at the middle of the ground floor, Wasley said. There is a file cabinet and a lot of debris in it, he added.

Dennis Cassella, the county’s director of emergency services, said the state Office of Emergency Services has contacted the U.S. Small Business Administration to help affected business owners gain access to low-interest loans.

The county will not charge business owners the cost of removing the debris to the McCourtney Road Transfer Station as long as they have not received their insurance money, Cassella said.

After the meeting, Friar Tuck’s owner Greg Cook said he hopes to pull salvageable items from the debris. “There is quite a bit of stuff that’s recoverable,” he said.

The City Council on Friday passed an emergency ordinance to allow the demolition of what remains of the landmark.

“Things are in a state of flux,” city engineer Bill Falconi said at the meeting Sunday. The new building could be constructed in 10 to 12 months. “It’s going to take awhile to rebuild that structure,” Falconi said.

The Nevada City Chamber of Commerce has agreed to collect funds for the employees and musicians who lost their jobs due to the fire. The Nevada City Fire Relief Fund has been set up through the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce and the Nevada County Cultural Preservation Trust, the trust that owns Miners Foundry Cultural Center, city officials said.

Friar Tuck’s Web site at http://www.friartucks.com gives updates on the situation. For photos, the Web site says, click on the flame.

Contributions can be made by check or money order to the Fire Relief Fund, c/o Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, 132 Main St., Nevada City 95959.

All contributions will go to employees of the Herb Shop and record store, Friar Tuck’s Restaurant & Bar and Off Broadstreet theater.

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