December 8, 1977 Fire: 5th Business Needs Some Repairs
-Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, December 9, 1977 , pg 10. - © Ogden Newspapers; reproduced with permission.
5th Business Needs Some Repairs
A fifth business in the 12th Street area of downtown Wheeling nearly fell victim to the estimated $1 million fire which raged throughout most of the day Thursday, City Engineer James Ewing said.
But Ewing Friday said Ernie's Cork and Bottle, 39 12th St., probably will be saved pending some repairs to the front and east side of the building.
The bar is located next door to the Red Bull Club, 41 12th St., where the fire was thought to have started. Wheeling firefighters worked throughout the day to save the Cork and Bottle from sharing the same fate as the Red Bull and three other businesses which were destroyed.
The firefighters efforts resulted in water damage to the bar which also sustained smoke damage. But Ewing said it was fortunate that the fire did not penetrate the common wall shared by the Red Bull and the Cork and Bottle.
"As it is, there will have to be some repair to the east wall which was damaged above and below the fire line. That is in addition to damage which will have to be repaired to the front facade of the Cork and Bottle," Ewing said.
Ewing said there is no reason to condemn the Cork and Bottle for being structurally unsafe. He said a spokesman for the bar owner has promised to cooperate with the engineer's office in making the repairs.
In the aftermath of Thursday's downtown blaze, Fire Chief Cliff Sligar said firefighters were concerned about further spreading of the fire during the pre-dawn hours Thursday. He said brisk winds, such as the area experienced Friday, could have resulted in an even e greater disaster.
"We were really lucky that the winds weren't whipping around at 5 a.m. Thursday. There was every possibility at that time that the fire could have spread north as far as the Morris Plan Bank up along Market Street.
"You have to credit good fire fighting, I think, for averting what could have been much worse," Sligar said.
Sligar said the fire was declared officially to be over at 10:30 a.m. Friday. Until that time, he said there were smouldering embers remaining in the area of the former Red Bull Club.
Demolition of the burned buildings and clearance of the rubble also continued Friday by Engstrom & Wynn Construction Co., Wheeling. That firm was called into the project after a crane provided earlier by Power City Plumbing & Heating Co. proved to be inadequate for the removal process, officials said.
Sligar said it was necessary for safety reasons to begin the demolition of the tottering store fronts during the fire Thursday. But he said knocking the walls down probably fed the fire and stretched the time firefighters were forced to spend in quelling the blaze.
"What happened was that all this wood piled on top of the fire. There wasn't any blaze or flames after a while but it was still smouldering. That's why the fire really wasn't over until 10:30 (Friday) morning."
The area is expected to be fenced off soon, George Petroplus, of Security National Bank which administers the property for out-of-town owners, said.
Petroplus said he has received numerous calls from potential investors who expressed interest in purchasing the property.
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