Charleston’s mayor hopes to bring together his city’s residents to show support for the owner of an auto parts and repair shop that burned down late Thursday.
Firefighters still are unsure what caused H&H Rebuilders at 108 N. Logan St. to catch fire about 6 p.m. and burn down. The fire started in the northern front corner of the building, but with no insurance, and considering the extent of the damage, it’s likely no one will find out what caused the flames to ignite, Charleston Fire Chief Shawn Lovett said.
Charleston Mayor Sherman Hiatt said the community is feeling a lot of sadness for Charlie Hartsell, owner of the nearly 40-year-old business, and Hartsell’s grandson, Brett, who was the shop’s only other employee.
"(Charlie’s) one of those people who’s always willing to help you," Hiatt said. "He did a good job with the service that he provided there for people — from farmers to automobile dealers and all. He’s always treated people fair. You never went away thinking you’d been cheated or anything like that."
Hiatt said the building was over 100 years old, which is why Hartsell did not have insurance for it.
"There’s no way you could insure something like that," Hiatt said. "The premiums would be just astronomical."
The fire also destroyed a nearby storage building, and flames crept over to a few historic buildings on Main Street. Hiatt said firefighters extinguished those flames and saved the buildings.
"At one time there was like four buildings on fire," Hiatt said. "Thank goodness two of them weren’t very much on fire."
The fire caused nearly 2,000 power outages in Franklin County. Crews repaired most of the outages about 9 p.m. Thursday and fixed the remaining 190 outages early Friday, according to an Oklahoma Gas & Electric outages map.
As of 5:30 p.m. Friday, 250 customers in the area were without use of their land-line phone service. Jeff Jones, CenturyLink spokesperson, said he was unable to provide the total number of customers who lost service, but crews repaired a large portion early Friday.
"(The fire) knocked down the eastern half of the Charleston exchange. It temporarily knocked out everything west of there … but that was a fiber, and they got that fixed by about 3 o’clock in the morning," Jones said. "What wasn’t restored was the copper that fed the eastern half of that exchange."
Jones said crews hoped to restore phone service to the remaining customers by Saturday afternoon.
Hiatt said Hartsell is unsure what he’ll do next, but the first step will be to get the area cleaned up and salvage anything still usable.
"I think the community will step up and help him with that as much as they can because of what a valuable service he provided," Hiatt said. "It’s just one of those businesses you won’t find on every block."
Hiatt said he’d like to organize some type of community fundraiser for Hartsell and his family.
"He did the community a big service. We hate to see this happen to him because he’s just been a part of the community so long, and he’s helped so many people," Hiatt said. "I think there’d be enough support … to show him that the town appreciates him and to help him get a little bit back on his feet."