Athens — PALESTINE — Palestine firefighters worked throughout the night to extinguish a massive fire that consumed a historic three-story building in downtown Palestine early Saturday morning.
As of 5 a.m. Saturday, fire crews remained at the scene. Fire officials were concerned that the front wall of the building was unstable and feared it might collapse at any moment.
Reports of individuals inside the building at the time of the fire were unconfirmed as of presstime early Saturday morning.
“The fire is under investigation at this time. The structure is unstable and too hot to enter,” Palestine Fire Department Lt. Devin Jackson told the Herald-Press.
Jackson did, however, say that at least one person made it out of the building before the structure was fully engulfed. According to witnesses at the scene, that person was an older man who was dressed only in a pair of shorts, without a shirt and shoes.
Building tenant Brenda Jorgensen, who has operated Family Gardens thrift store in the bottom floor of the building for the past year, was devastated while at the scene of the fire.
“I’m not worried about anything else but whether or not everybody got out,” Jorgensen told the Herald-Press. “I’m sick at my stomach over this.”
Jorgensen told the Herald-Press that she was allowing two men to reside in the building and that both of them exited before the building was engulfed. One of the men called her to notify her of the fire.
Jorgensen was concerned that two other individuals could have been in the building, as she allowed them to spend the night there.
However, the PFD could not confirm that report.
“We cannot do a search at this time due to the structure being unstable. We will investigate that in the daylight,” Jackson said.