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Local business owners express appreciation for Lincoln Fire, Police, and others after fire at Chopsticks

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To the editor:

As business owners in Lincoln we would like to thank everyone for the expert help during a fire event in the 500 block of Woodlawn on 5/26/14.

We are writing this for several reasons but mostly to show our appreciation for the respectful citizens and the professionals on the fire and police departments.

On 5/26/2014 at approximately 11:09 p.m. we received a call stating that the pet store was on fire. Naturally a panic set in and our only focus was to get to the scene so we could assess the damage or potential damage. Concern for the animals and the property was naturally our first concern.

Our next statements are to head off some of the arm chair quarterbacks that naturally come alive during an event like this. Questions and statements are always thrown about regarding the way the fire and police handle these situations as well as causes and suspicions. I want to continue by stating that I am aware of these situations as a six year veteran of a fire dept. two of which was Fire Chief and a 14 year law enforcement veteran of which almost 11years as Chief of police.

We will not address causes of the fire at this point because we do not know what has been determined to be the cause, nor if that determination has yet been made. What I will address is what we saw upon our arrival at approximately 11:20 p.m. and moving through the early morning hours.

As you can imagine our curiosity and emotions were running very high. Upon approaching the scene we saw a very large amount of smoke and many pieces of fire equipment and police cars. The fire department had made some very good choices in staging the equipment in an effort protect the scene, fire fighters and the public. The water lines we laid out and the equipment was staged strategically to best get water to the fire. The police had the crowd in an isolated but safe area and the roads blocked so traffic from passersby’s could not become a hazard to themselves or the professional working the scene. We could see that the pet store had not been damaged to this point by fire but we were nervously curious about the possibility of smoke causing harm to the animals.

The fire dept. was applying water in large volumes and had worked to vent the smoke from the building to attempt to assess the location and type of fire. There is no doubt in our minds that the fire command made many intelligent decisions during the set up and battle plan to stop this fire. It appeared that a decision was made to not send in the firemen, this decision was in our minds, a very smart one. As we all know the restaurant industry can create a great deal of grease over time. As with any grease fire there can be flashes without any warning as was evident with this fire. As the building burned it appears that the fire was in one area and then moments later it would flare up in another. This kind of fire is very dangerous to fight and can cause severe casualties without any warning. Instead of entering the building the water was sprayed from the outside using an aerial truck and men on the ground all while two firemen were watching the dividing wall through the removed windows of the next business to make certain that the fire did not spread to adjacent businesses.

[to top of second column in this letter]

When it appeared the fire was under control the fire command allowed us to enter the pet store momentarily to check on the animals. Upon opening the front door we could see that the smoke had not yet entered the store and the immediate danger to the animals appeared to be minimal. After speaking with a member of the fire dept. it was determined that we should remove the animals in an effort to prevent any harm to them. The concern was the fire was still not out and if it flared up and took off to adjacent businesses we may not be able to get them out. There were two police officers who assisted us in determining the best way to remove the animals, because the smoke was heavy out front due to the southeast winds we decided to remove them from the back of the building.

There were many concerned citizens and animal lovers that wanted to help us in this effort, but due to lack of space and not wanting to endanger anyone unnecessarily we kept the number of friends to a minimum to help us. We removed several animals that we felt would be the most susceptible to the smoke hazards. These were loaded into a truck and taken up the street to a safe location where we waited to see the outcome of the fire.

Several hours passed before the scene was considered safe and we were allowed to go back into the building.

Once inside of the building we could see that the animals appeared to have suffered no ill effects of the night's events. The removed animals were placed back into their homes and were no worse for wear.

We wish to thank the friends who assisted us in removing and storing of the animals for a few hours while we waited to see what was in store for the night.

We want to give a special thank you to the professional of the Fire departments, the Police department and the citizens who maintained their distance and allow the public safety officials to do their jobs in a safe and efficient manner.

And to the couple of soreheads who know more than anyone else thanks for staying out of the way while the real experts did their job.

Lincoln can and should be proud of their public safety officials, they are professionals.

We the Pet Connection, again Thank you all.

Sherry and Jeff Cast

[Posted May 30, 2014]

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