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News Main Street restaurant fire is devastating for Sylva merchants

Main Street of Sylva was blocked off to allow firefighters full access to the burning building on Saturday morning. Photos by Brittney ParkerDowntown businesses affected as traffic is rerouted.

As of Wednesday morning, the fate of Sylva’s Main Street remained uncertain after an early morning fire on Saturday wreaked havoc on local businesses.

Authorities got the call a little after 6 a.m. on Saturday morning, and firefighters from around the region immediately responded to Sylva’s Main Street. The building, built in the early 1920s, which according to Sylva Town Manager Paige Roberson is owned by Joan Stearnes, had apparently caught fire due to what authorities would later rule as an electrical fire that started on the roof. The blaze could be seen for miles and more than 10 agencies and fire departments responded to extinguish the flames.

According to Roberson, fire departments had difficultly extinguishing the fire due to windows on the upper level of the building being boarded up. “Fire Chief Mike Beck told me that it was more difficult to put the fire out due to the boards on the windows,” Roberson said Monday afternoon. “Had the windows just been glass, the water would have been able to break through easier.”

Roberson said Beck encouraged her to not only consider addressing the other buildings on Main Street with boarded windows as a beautification project for the town, but also as a safety hazard.

Duke Energy cut the power to all of Main Street, which left about 1,200 residents without power while fire fighters battled the blaze. The measure was taken to hopefully prevent further damage to adjoining buildings.

The building was home to Trevelino’s Restaurant, which had replaced Hooper’s Restaurant in recent months. Although the restaurant was housed in the building, it doesn’t appear that it was open to the public.

After meeting with the structural engineer, Roberson said that the Hooper’s Restaurant building’s back and front walls are stable.

"This means the building will probably not need to come down. The adjacent building, which housed Motion Makers, is also structurally sound. The owners of both Motion Makers and Backstreet Airsoft were allowed to enter their businesses for merchandise on Tuesday morning.

"The other good news is that the N.C. Dept. of Transportation is allowing us to open one lane of traffic on both Mill Street and Main Street now that the engineer has determined the buildings are stable. A fence needs to be placed in front and behind the buildings. The fence will be up by sometime [Wednesday] afternoon," said Roberson.

The fire that was reported shortly after 6 a.m. is believed to have started on the roof of Trevelino’s Restaurant.“Eight volunteer fire departments, the highway patrol, the SBI, Sylva Police Department, Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, and so many others showed up right away. If it wasn’t for their hard work, things could have been much worse.

“Although traffic is being detoured around that portion of the street, the businesses that were not directly affected by the blaze are open,” said Roberson. “We know this stands to have a huge impact on the economy, so we urge local residents to shop local and support these businesses during this time.”

Sylva Main Street business owner Erin Smith, who owns Humanité Boutique, said that although her business was temporarily closed, the extent of the damage she received was due to smoke. “Luckily, the smoke didn't get into Humanité Boutique like we anticipated,” said Smith. “We have Servicemaster coming in to do an assessment (mainly to make sure the little smoke that did get in, didn't permeate the clothes) and I think after some airing out and a quick clean, we'll be good as new!”

Humanité was able to reopen on Tuesday afternoon.

Like so many other business owners, Smith attended a special called meeting Monday night to hear from town officials on how moving forward will be handled. “My main concern right now is the flow of traffic to get to the store,” said Smith. “Since I'm in the block where the fire occurred, traffic isn't flowing through its normal route and some police tape is still in front of the store.”

Sylva Mayor Maurice Moody explained the meeting as being, “simply a communication meeting with the public to discuss the fire Sylva experienced on Saturday.”

Like Roberson, Smith hopes that patrons will rally to support local businesses during this time. “Our block of downtown could have been destroyed and more stores could have been damaged, but they weren't and I'm so thankful,” said Smith. “All of Main street Sylva is banding together to see how we can help each other, especially Blackrock and Motion Makers. Now is the time we need the local and surrounding communities the most. Now is the time we need the support.”


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