Fort Scott brick company building burns

By Jason E. Silvers
Fort Scott Tribune – March 22, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 31, 2017

Click on each photo to view full-size image.

An early Tuesday morning fire gutted an old brick building on North Hill Street that once operated as part of a brick plant.

Fort Scott city firefighters were called out just after 1 a.m. after receiving a report from a Bourbon County Sheriff’s Office deputy that a building in an area on North Hill Street was on fire, Fort Scott Deputy Fire Chief Dave Bruner said.

“We responded and once on scene we found a portion of the building fully engulfed,” Bruner said. “We called Scott Township (rural fire department) for assistance with extinguishing it. We were able to contain it to that portion.”

Bruner said the fire “did get into another area,” in one of the nearby buildings on the property that made up the old brick manufacturing plant, but were able to control it before it spread.

The brick building, which has sat vacant for many years, was still fully intact prior to the fire.

“The brick portion of the building sustained the major damage,” he said. “There was a roof collapse in that area.”

Bruner said the Office of the State Fire Marshal was contacted to assist the FSFD in determining a cause. While the fire is under investigation, Bruner said after working the scene, “it looks incendiary.”

The fire departments received assistance from the Fort Scott Police Department and BCSO, Bruner said.

“They stayed and helped control the scene for us,” he said.

The FSFD sent five trucks and nine personnel to the fire. Bruner said he did not have a total number of trucks and firefighters sent by Scott Township.

Firefighters had the fire under control by about 2:25 a.m. but did not clear the scene until about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday following routine checks and an on-scene investigation, Bruner said. Firefighters also returned to the scene later to check for hot spots.

Bruner said there were no reported injuries to firefighters or civilians. He said the property is now owned by East Wall Street Properties Company.

Robbie Forester, general manager of Velocity Tactics, an ammunition distributor in Fort Scott, said Tuesday “about four or five years ago,” East Wall Street Properties purchased the property where the old brick plant is located as part of a plan to buy properties for future redevelopment.

Forester said he was contacted at about 3 a.m. and visited the fire scene, where he talked with Fort Scott Fire Chief Paul Ballou.

“The plan is to clean up the area and make businesses,” he said. “There are some future plans but nothing set in stone as far as plans. we do want to resurrect some buildings.”

Forester said he was speaking on behalf of East Wall Street Properties and the fire has no effect on Velocity Tactics. He said East Wall Street Properties and Velocity Tactics are companies under the umbrella of Ward Kraft, Inc.

He said the loss of the brick building should not affect company plans for future cleanup and development. He said there is no set timeline or plans for improvements.

“Basically we’ll just tear it down and maybe some of the surrounding buildings that are damaged,” he said. “We will move forward with cleanup and in future years” create some activities for the public.

The old brick building was once part of the Western Shale Products company,a  brick plant that operated from 1888 to 1935.

The company was located on 15 acres at the north city limits bordered by three railroads, two of which serviced the plant.

At its peak, the company had six brick buildings and nine kilns. The plant produced building block and paving brick in rail car quantities distributed across the continent, including the Indianapolis Speedway and as far as the Panama Canal, according to information from the Historic Preservation Association of Bourbon County.

Don Miller, HPA member, said the company produced different thicknesses of brick for buildings, roads and sidewalks and much of the original brick seen on Fort Scott roads today came from Western Shale.

“It came out of there (the plant) by the millions,” he said.

Cable cars would run on an incline from a clay pit of the Western Shale Brick Company to the company’s plant delivering freshly-dug red clay. Rail car quantities of coal were brought in and burned to heat kilns and fire bricks, according to HPA information.

Arnold Schofield, HPA member, said although there were other small kilns that serviced the area at one point, the Western Shale company was the “main brick operation” during its time. The brick building destroyed in the Tuesday fire is one of “only two buildings left from that.”


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

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