BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WKRN) — Dozens of Bowling Green first responders spent most of Friday battling a blaze that severely damaged a commercial building housing a U.S. senator’s local office, along with a law firm.
The Bowling Green Fire Department (BGFD) said crews responded to reports of smoke and flames coming from the Presbyterian church on State Street at approximately 1:45 a.m. on Friday, July 21. A short time later, more units were dispatched for a fire alarm in the 1000 block of State Street.
When firefighters arrived at the address of the alarm, they discovered a two-story commercial structure with heavy flames and “turbulent smoke,” according to officials.
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“Due to the advanced stages of this fire and the type of occupancy, a second alarm was activated which put additional units on the incident,” the BGFD stated. “This alarm also included a Strike Team knockout for off duty personnel and a request to Richardsville and Alvaton Fire Departments to assist in covering the city.”
The BGFD said prior knowledge of the structure’s hazards posed a risk to personnel, including a heavy fire load, weakened floors with holes, and an open elevator shaft.
After sizing up the scene, crews reportedly discovered the fire extended beyond the source of the alarm — which is listed as a local law firm — and reached two neighboring addresses, including the address listed on U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) website as his Bowling Green office. Fire officials said each of the businesses showed “zero or low visibility” amid the blaze.
According to the BGFD, portions of the building started to deteriorate, with the exterior walls weakening and the roof and parts of the walls collapsing. Due to the structure’s instability, units were forced to stay in a safe zone throughout the incident.
First responders said they ended up using multiple hydrants because of the large amount of water needed to extinguish the blaze, but their coordination with Bowling Green Municipal Utilities (BGMU) allowed for “consistent flow and repairs” throughout the operation.
In addition, officials said BGMU helped with electrical hazards near the building to offer a safe working area, which led to streets being blocked off in the immediate area.
After the fire was brought under control, the BGFD said the structure was deemed unsafe for any entry. As a result, a contractor was immediately notified to start demolishing the building, with firefighters staying at the scene to watch for any hot spots.
According to the BGFD, more than 75 crewmembers and 15 apparatuses responded to the scene over the course of 17 hours. Personnel rotated at the scene throughout the day, allowing firefighters to rest and recover from battling the blaze.
There were no reports of injuries at the scene.
Fire investigators began documenting the incident while the operation was still underway. However, as of Saturday, July 22, the BGFD and the Bowling Green Police Department are still investigating the cause of the fire, officials said, adding that they will be working alongside the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), which has launched its own investigation.
Meanwhile, Paul said in a statement he was thankful for the first responders who quickly arrived to extinguish the fire at the building, adding that his office is working with authorities to assess the damage and determine the cause of the incident.
“We have a very well established emergency management plan and have the ability to continue operations that will not impact our work helping Kentuckians,” the senator’s website said. “If you are in need of assistance, please contact 270-782-8303, and one of my staff members will be able to assist you.”
The BGFD posted on Facebook Saturday evening that one lane of State Street was still closed so the contractor could work in the area safely.