Fire destroys businesses in Walters

Published: Jan. 5, 2015 at 11:02 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 12, 2015 at 3:04 PM CST
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WALTERS, Okla._Several long-time businesses in Walters were decimated after they were ravaged in an early morning fire.

The fire started around 5:30 a.m. Monday on the 100 block of South Broadway Street. In all, a karate studio and nail shop were destroyed. City officials say the fire was reported by a woman inside an early morning Zumba class. She said she smelled smoke, stepped outside and saw fire pouring from the window of a building next door.

Firefighters had the destroyed parts of the building completely torn down and soaked the pile of rubble. Locals say it's a sad case to see something so historic go down in such a terrible way.

Beth Davis, along with other local citizens, stood around all morning, watching the historic building dwindle into a pile of rubble.

"I've watched it burn all morning, and I have cried many times this morning," said Davis.

Davis says she's been in Walters for over 35 years, and spent many days at the businesses across the street that were once a bowling alley and a nail shop.

"The Cotton Bowl is one of the first places I remember when I moved to Walters. I've been in flip flops. Tanya's does my nails. It's just devastating to lose that kind of history in this town," said Davis.

City officials say the fire started on the north end of the building, between the first and second floor, but aren't sure how it started. Officials say that part of the building had been abandoned and there was no running gas or electricity in that area. City officials say this is the first time the building succumbed to this type of devastation since being built in the early 1900's.

"It's been in Walters since Walters has been Walters. So, quite a bit of history burned up here this morning," said Walters City Manager John Sheppard.

That's the largest fire Sheppard says he's seen in the past 16 years. He says he hates to see it happen to working businesses and it's an even worse feeling to have such a large fire in such a small town.

"Any time in a small town when you have a fire like this, it's terrible. It's just another vacant place on the business side of town," said Sheppard.

Sheppard says they were able to save the outside structure of a bowling alley. However, there's no word on how much water damage there is on the inside.

Walters Fire Department also called on mutual aid from five surrounding cities. Officials believe the building will still smolder for a few days.