Canton First Monday grounds suffer fire loss
Posted by : November 16, 2013| On :
By Britne Reeves
Monitor Staff Writer
CANTON–Many of the businesses and residences on Canton’s First Monday “The Mountain” in Canton are gone, but those that live there and city officials agree, it could have been worse.
According to Sammie Frederick, owner of two bed and breakfast establishments on The Mountain, a policeman knocked on her door early Saturday morning, Nov. 9, telling her to “get out of your house, there is a fire.”
“It took me a second to really comprehend what was going on. But then I saw the blaze, and it looked large. So, I ran down the hill knocking on doors waking people up to get everyone to safety,” Frederick said.
A Canton policeman on regular patrol reported the fire at 3:48 a.m. and started the evacuation, according to city administrator Julie Seymore.
The Mountain is located adjacent to Old Mill Marketplace at 542 E. Dallas St. (Highway 64.) The shops, storefronts, residences and rooms for rent were built with an Old West theme. Narrow streets meander up the side of the steep hill.
Frederick said it was a lucky chance that more people were not on The Mountain.
“We had just hosted a hayride, where we take children up through the mountain to look at all the lights and decorations,” she said.
“A lot of people were here, but not as many as there are on market weekend. Everyone was evacuated and we all met down in the Old Mill Marketplace parking lot. From our position, the fire was enormous. It was about as tall as a tree and even standing about 100 feet away, the heat from the fire could still be felt. It was a sad and emotional moment for everyone,” Frederick said.
Approximately 25 people were evacuated, but there were no injuries. The Mountain officials said 15 shops and five bed and bath facilities were completely destroyed. According to a broadcast interview, owner Debbie Davis Reaves said some of the businesses were insured and some were not.
“The State Fire Marshal’s office has completed its investigation. They ruled the cause as undetermined,” said city manager Lonny Cluck.
On hand at the scene were Canton, South Van Zandt, Van, Grand Saline, Wills Point and Fruitvale fire departments and the American Red Cross.
“We really want to thank all the responding agencies who assisted on this fire,” Cluck said.
“On behalf of the city of Canton, I do not have the words to express what a remarkable job the first responders did in the protection of human life and personal property. These responders came from all over the county and handled this impossible task with a level of courage and professionalism that could not be surpassed. This group was well prepared and well trained.”
“This entire operation was orchestrated with an unbelievable amount of cooperation from each department. Chief Bud Sanford’s ability to adjust to the situation as scenarios changed was commendable. Canton’s firefighters are an outstanding group,” Cluck said.
Susan Mattassa, owner of the Buffalo Girls Hotel, was on The Mountain when the fire broke out.
“I was awakened by a knock at my door, and I smelled the smoke,” she said. “I then saw the fire and it was a feeling of sheer panic. There was a huge glow and embers flying around everywhere. It seemed like the fire was swallowing up everything on the mountain. It was a time of grief and sadness. There were firefighters and emergency response vehicles everywhere. If not for them, I think the fire would have consumed everything. I am so grateful to all of the fire departments for saving what they could.”
Fire chief Sanford said when he first assessed the fire, he knew that it could only go beyond a certain limit or everything would have been lost.
“When I first arrived at the scene, I did what we call a 360 view,” he said.
“We drive around the perimeter and then we draw lines to where the fire cannot pass. The fire was beyond the height of the trees and kept continuing to grow. We placed our firefighters where they needed to be and the fire did not reach beyond our lines. They did an excellent job at combating the fire. The only problem we had was getting water up the hill. There is not a fire plug on every corner like there is in a city. But, the fire was contained.”
By 11 a.m., the fire was out, with only a few wisps of smoke wafting up from the charred remains. The damaged area was central to the mountain, with buildings toward the front, sides and back undamaged.
The middle section of the complex looked like a burned-out crater. Several structures were completely burned down, and others severely damaged. Objects that were once for sale littered the ground; beads from necklaces were warped and melted, sheets of tin lay in heaps and Christmas decorations and lights lay scattered throughout the area.