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Posted February 19, 2011 EST

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Fire Just Misses Missouri Theater
Firefighters arrived on the scene at the Missouri Theater complex at 6 a.m. Saturday to find the show already under way. There was so much smoke laying on Edmond Street that we couldn't tell where the fire was at first, said Paris Jenkins, a battalion chief who set up the first command post.

There was a lot of smoke in the Missouri Theater itself, but no fire, said Steve O'Neal, a city employee. The fire was confined to the second floor of the building next to the Missouri Theater, used by Robidoux Resident Theater for costume storage, props and rehearsals.

A show planned for Saturday evening at the theater, "Las Vegas Tribute to Motown," was rescheduled for the Word of Life Church, 3902 N. Riverside Road, beginning at 8 p.m.

Capt. Rick Caton and the crew from Engine 12 of the St. Joseph Fire Department pulled up on Eighth Street and were quickly in the thick of things. Firefighters forced the glass doors on the Eighth Street side of the complex and took three lines upstairs.

"There was fire above and around the corner," Mr. Caton said. They ran into thick smoke and flames.

Temperatures were between 1,000 and 1,800 degrees, and the water from the attack lines created steam that brought the heat down to the floor, Mr. Jenkins said. "There was too much heat but not enough ventilation," he said.

One firefighter sank into the second-story floor up to his eyeballs, but his team pulled him up, Mr. Jenkins said. The department didn't think the man suffered any major injuries, but emergency medical personnel were checking him out.

By 6:45 a.m., every unit of the fire department except Engine 2 had been dispatched to the fire. Firefighters threw ladders up against the Eighth Street wall above A-Z Freshair Fare Natural Market so they could use a pike to start breaking windows, as the fire exploded out of a north side window.

To save the Missouri Theater, the attack crew was pulled out of the building and the aerial unit on Engine 12, with its high-pressure nozzle, was positioned so it could begin pumping 1,000 gallons of water a minute into the building. The danger was that the water would push the flaming costumes toward the east wall of the theater, Mr. Jenkins said.

After talking with the battalion chief, Fire Chief Mike Dalsing set up a second command post and sent about 25 men to the roof of the two-story building, on the east side. Ladder 5 and 7 elevated the aerial units as a safety precaution and the department put its Rapid Intervention Team in place.

The men on the roof cut a 4-foot-wide trench in the roof and ceiling, next to the east wall of the Missouri Theater. "This is a very labor-intensive mission that the department doesn't normally perform," Mr. Dalsing said.

However, given the fact that the historic theater was threatened, it was deemed necessary, he said.

By 8 a.m., firefighters had the conflagration under control and the two shifts exchanged duties as Mr. Jenkins transferred command to Russell Moore. Firefighters were still on the scene at 9 a.m., checking for hot spots.

Fire inspectors said they won't have a report on the cause and damage until Monday.

Written by St. Joseph News-Press

Courtesy of YellowBrix - YellowBrix