Tazewell business owners survey damage left by New Years fire

Local - 1/1/2014 6:06 PM by Karen Franklin
TAZEWELL - One city in Tazewell County has little to celebrate this New Year after several businesses erupted in flames Tuesday afternoon.

Robert Johann is the owner of what's left of Guru's Then & Now Thrift Store. He and other business owners welcomed the new year watching firefighters battle a massive fire that tore through several main street shops.

"You could see the flames shooting 40 feet up in the air or higher," said Luther Becker, who owns Becker's Jewel Box. "All the roofs were burning. The glass was breaking, and I said, 'Oh, I know I won't have nothing.'"

Becker may be able to salvage some watches that survived water damage, but Guru's merchandise is wet, charred and still smouldering.

"I can't believe it," Johann told WOAY. "It looks terrible. It's just gone. You can't really imagine what something like this would do to you."

Another building also sustained damage because firefighters were forced to bring their equipment through it to battle the flames through the connecting breezeway.

Tom Van Dyke is helping his friends clean their store. The water from the fire hoses leaked through the upper floors and down onto the merchandise.

"We arrived this morning and just discovered the damage, so we're just trying to just do damage control right now," he said. "Make things not any worse, and then we'll see how bad it really is."

Becker talked about damage to his watches.

"Inside my store is like a rainforest," he told Newswatch. "There's about three or four inches of water. All kinds of smoke damage. It's really something to see."

Now the question remains of what to do next.

"I can't even think that far ahead -- what's going to happen now," Johann said. "It's obvious you can't be here no more because there's nothing here. There's no roof."

Van Dyke was also unsure of the future.

"I really can't tell you that now," he said. "It's really hard to say what the plans will be."

Tazewell Police have requested the aid of the Virginia State Fire Marshal. Store owners will now rely on each other for support.

"You can't stop living," Becker said. "I mean you gotta keep going no matter what happens because I guess bad things happen to people all the time, and you just gotta keep going and keep trying, and we will."


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