Early Saturday morning, firefighters responded to a fire at Trevalino‚Äôs Restaurant. The fire is believed to be electrical in nature, perhaps beginning in an air handler, but an exact cause is still being determined. By the time the blaze was contained a early Saturday afternoon, the damage was significant.
Town leaders informed the public a couple of days after the fire that the building housing Trevalino‚Äôs would likely have to be demolished; that was the report they were getting from the insurers. Until then, the portion of Main Street between Spring and Evalina streets would need to remain closed.
‚ÄúThe structural engineer is coming tomorrow, we‚Äôll get a game plan from there,‚ÄĚ Sylva Town Manager Paige Roberson said at the emergency meeting. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre going to do this as quickly as possible. It‚Äôs not going to be fast, but we‚Äôre going to do it as fast as we can.‚ÄĚ
Downtown business owners in attendance at the meeting were concerned about the rippling ramifications from the fire. How long would traffic be routed around the affected area of downtown? What impact do barricades and crime-scene tape have on business? Can the town do anything to advertise the fact that downtown is still open for business?
Businesses owners with businesses located in properties neighboring Trevalino‚Äôs were concerned about damages and inventory. They wondered when they might be able to salvage what lay behind the tape and barricades, but were told entering the properties posed too big of a liability issue.
‚ÄúCan I get my stuff out of my store,‚ÄĚ said Backstreet Airsoft owner Jeff Moss, explaining that his military surplus inventory needed rescuing from his Mill Street establishment. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm a big boy, I can walk through a building.‚ÄĚ
Sylva Public Works Director Dan Schaeffer explained that it was too risky to allow anyone in the impacted properties yet due to the chance of the structure collapsing.
‚ÄúCause you‚Äôre seeing some bowing in the building,‚ÄĚ Schaeffer said. ‚ÄúIf it fell, it‚Äôd go all the way across backstreet, or it could only fill one lane.‚ÄĚ
After the emergency town meeting, Moss stood in the parking lot by his pickup and pondered the situation. His store received substantial water damage as the fire was fought and he feared losing the inventory stuck inside.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a pool,‚ÄĚ Moss said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs just gonna either mold or rust up.‚ÄĚ
And, of course, there‚Äôs the loss of revenue as the business sits dormant. Moss is concerned about his employees weathering such a stretch.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve got some money set aside, they don‚Äôt,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThey need to work.‚ÄĚ
Other businesses feeling the brunt of the weekend fire include Southern Signs, Black Rock Outdoor and Motion Makers Bike Shop. Black Rock and Motion Makers share walls with Travelino‚Äôs.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a mess,‚ÄĚ said Kent Cranford, owner of Motion Makers.
Cranford, like other business owners, was allowed to enter his impacted property initially after the fire to retrieve must-have items.
‚ÄúJust for a little bit, to collect anything that was personal in nature,‚ÄĚ he explained. ‚ÄúMy business papers, computers. At that point everything was wet.‚ÄĚ
While the building housing Motion Makers didn‚Äôt take the direct him, Cranford expected it to be tallied as totaled along with the neighboring structure where the fire began.
‚ÄúThe general consensus is that our building will come down,‚ÄĚ the business owner said Tuesday afternoon. ‚ÄúMost people think it‚Äôs not going to be able to stay.‚ÄĚ
Cranford was worried that if the property neighboring his business fell it could start a chain reaction.
‚ÄúIf our building goes, what else goes?‚ÄĚ he wondered. ‚ÄúYou know, how big of a domino effect is it going to be?‚Äô
For now, Cranford is concentrating on retrieving inventory and customers‚Äô bikes that were currently being tended to. He plans to set up shop somewhere temporarily in order to get back to work.
The fire is also giving the downtown business owner a reason to rethink his location. While he enjoys ‚Äúbeing a part of downtown Sylva,‚ÄĚ much of his customer base stems from Western Carolina University in nearby Cullowhee and the current location presents some logistical issues.
Cranford is trying to glimpse a silver lining in the midst of bad news.
‚ÄúThe upside of this is there‚Äôs an opportunity for us, at least temporarily, to experiment with another part of town,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre gonna reopen ‚Ä¶ my gut feeling is we probably won‚Äôt be able to be at 552 Main again.‚ÄĚ
Or, maybe Main is still an option. By Tuesday after, the structural engineer had given the fire-damaged properties a thumbs-up.
‚ÄúThe building is structurally sound, both Trevalino‚Äôs and Motion Makers,‚ÄĚ said Roberson.
While the structures are sound, the damage is extensive. Roberson reported that Trevalino‚Äôs front and back walls, as well as its beams, were sound but that the remainder could be chalked up to a ‚Äúlong remodel.‚ÄĚ
That structurally-sound assessment will go a ways toward easing fears along Main Street. Business owners are being allowed to reenter their impacted businesses and by Wednesday, one lane of Main Street and one lane of Mill Street will open to traffic, ending the detour.
‚ÄúMuch better than I was thinking,‚ÄĚ Roberson said.