Firefighters knock down 3-alarm blaze, preserve Whiskey Row facades

RAW: Louisville Mayor commends fire crews following Whiskey Row blaze
Published: Jul. 6, 2015 at 9:13 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 13, 2015 at 9:13 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - After battling flames for nearly three hours, firefighters were able to save the facades of several buildings being renovated on Main Street's historic Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville on Monday.

The fire was reported around 4:30 p.m. after a call from someone at the Humana Waterside building. Louisville Fire & Rescue crews reported heavy smoke and fire coming from the basement of one of the buildings in the 100 block of Main when they arrived at the scene.

After flames broke through the roof of a six-story building, an advisory was issued for residents who live near Whiskey Row to keep doors and windows closed because of the heavy smoke. Louisville's Emergency Management Agency lifted that advisory at about 9:30 p.m.

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Louisville Fire & Rescue Capt. Sal Melendez said crews fought the fire defensively to help protect the surrounding buildings. Melendez also said since the building was vacant, none of the 85 firefighters who responded to the fire entered the building.

At 9:30 p.m., he told reporters the worst had been over for some time, but added that his team will remain at the scene overnight to monitor any hot-spot flareups. The relieved captain said there were two reasons to be grateful Monday night.

"No. 1 -- no one was injured," he said. "And we were able to save the property."

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Melendez also said that all businesses except for one -- O'Shea's restaurant -- should be able to open as normal on Tuesday, adding that O'Shea's didn't sustain damage but will be needed as a path for crews who will continue to watch for hot spots.

Some commuters will need to consider alternate routes maneuvering around downtown Tuesday morning. Main Street will be closed between First and Second streets, and the alley that runs north of it -- Washington Alley -- also will be closed, Melendez said.

Second Street access next to the Second Street Bridge also will be closed Tuesday. All closures will be re-evaluated Tuesday, Melendez said.

Main Street Revitalization LLC member Craig Greenburg said renovation to convert the buildings to multi-purpose complexes -- including restaurants, a live entertainment venue, offices and apartments -- had just begun three weeks ago. Construction crews who were working on the building had left for the day before the fire started.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer tipped his cap to the firefighters who knocked down the blaze in less than three hours.

"It's very unusual to have this kind of close media coverage where we can really see our firefighters getting after it the way they did here," Fischer told reporters at about 8 p.m. "They were able to do that at the same time as they focused on preserving the facades of the building as well. So to have that kind of strength of response, but then that subtlety to handle the historic preservation aspect of this block, was truly phenomenal."

Fischer also noted the importance of the stretch of Main Street.

"Whiskey Row in my mind is one of the great blocks in all of America," he said. "It has been and it will be. What this is gonna do is make the story of Whiskey Row even more fabulous once we get past this."

A search in its third day for three missing boaters was called off because those crews were needed to help fight the fire.

It's still not clear what caused the blaze.

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