By Ashli Sims, The News On 6
WELEETKA, OK -- Half of downtown Weleetka is in ashes after a large fire Friday
High winds fanned the flames in the small town, and a lack of water hampered fire crews.
A popular cafe was among three businesses and two vacant buildings destroyed.
"It's just devastating to see my town like this," resident Debbie Wallace said. "I've been in this town all of my life, and I just can't stand to see it crumbling like this."
What started as a little smoke coming from the flower shop quickly turned into the kind of event fire fighters prepare for but hope they never see.
"It seemed like a regular fire," Fire Chief Jimpsey Micco said. "The more we got into it, the more obstacles we were running into, so we called for mutual aid from other fire departments around us."
Nine fire departments responded to the raging blaze. The cause has not been determined.
"It was a lot of smoke, and then the flames started shooting up pretty high, and we were afraid it would cross over the street to the other businesses," bank teller Karla Manley said.
Manley and her co-workers evacuated the bank. Water was hauled in, and fire crews were able to keep the flames at bay.
The bank's side of Main Street was saved. A popular town landmark was not.
Six hours after the first call, flames are still eating away at what's left of the Roundup Cafe. Those who live in the area say it feels as if the heart of the town has been ripped out.
"I doubt that anything will ever be put back," Wallace said. "That's what's so heartbreaking. And this used to be such a great town. I loved living here when I was a kid. I love it now. I won't move away."
Wallace says the cafe was the headquarters of the community when two girls were murdered last summer.
She says the fire happened on the same day as one of the victims' birthday.
"I was already emotional, and it just hit me this afternoon when I was coming home," Wallace said. "My town is going to be destroyed."
The sadness is just as palpable as the smoke still rising from the ruins.
"You know, even though the buildings were empty, you know it was my town," Wallace said. "This is my town. And I can't fathom coming to town now and seeing a big ol' gaping hole."
Wallace and others pray the hole will be filled with hope and the town scarred by murder and scorched by flames will soon bounce back.