Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

May 21, 2013

Gutted Yum-Yums building should be torn down ‘soon’

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — It's a constant question on the lips of many residents:  When will the charred husk of Yum-Yums, 215 S. Main St., be torn down?

After all, the explosive fire that ravaged that building took place over 20 days ago. In addition to the destroyed shell being an eyesore, many are worried that the building – housed between Dennie's Hair Design and Snaps Photography – might pose some kind of public danger if it is allowed to stay standing.

The property, according to the Cherokee County Central Appraisal District is valued at $74,970. Records indicate it is owned by a Mary R. Johnson, although the names attached to its mailing address, which is the same as the burned building itself, is to a Robert and Tina Lane.

Reached by telephone Monday, Robert Lane said his excavation efforts have been stymied by tests that must be performed before anything can be demolished or removed. However, he said he's hoping that can start happening as early as next week.

“Right now I am waiting on someone to do an asbestos test,” Lane explained. “As soon as we can get soon to take care of that we will be able to move forward. As soon as they get these basic tests done. There's also the bids to demolish the buildings. We really are at the mercy of the people testing and the lab to get the results.”

Lane said, obviously, his catering business is “on hold” right now while the excavation issue is addressed.

“We will have to get another place up and running and inspected,” Lane said. “We are hoping to get done fairly shortly. We are hoping to get moving in several directions by next week, including getting that building taken care of.”

City Manager Mo Raissi said Monday that he is, indeed, hoping the destroyed structure can be knocked down sooner rather than later. The lack of structural stability in the remains of the gutted building, which appears to be near collapse, has made it difficult for fire authorities to conduct an investigation.

The issue continues to attract attention. Whenever one stops to chat or goes out to get get gas or cleaning or whatever, someone is constantly asking when that building's coming down.

“It's a good question,” agreed Fire Chief Paul White. “I don't know what's causing the hold-up, but I do know one issue they might have to worry about when they start tearing the building down is the electricity. It will have to be turned off and that might affect other businesses in the area. So they might have to knock it down at night or something.”

There also is question of the investigation into the cause of the 12:15 a.m. April 28 fire, which in addition to destroying this building damaged neighboring structures, killed a pet cat. No human beings were harmed.

“We still don't know what happened – and it's probably a lost cause,” the fire chief said. “When they tear the building down, they will probably knock down all the bricks in the building, which eliminates any opportunity for investigation at this point.”

There was a firewall – a solid brick wall that extends to the roof – in  place to protect adjoining structures. The fire chief said the amount of wood in the structure could possibly have contributed to the rapidity of the spreading fire, which was so bad firefighters from throughout the county and beyond provided assistance.

Raissi said he is very well aware how slow the excavation process has been moving. He said the city will continue to monitor the issue.

“This could end up very unsafe and if  city officials have to step in at some point, we will,” he said.