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FIRE Jonesborough business battles nighttime flames

Staff Writer [email protected]

The Jonesborough Barrel House has closed indefinitely after a fire caused damage to a smokehouse building behind the restaurant Wednesday evening.

“The fire department was notified that there was a fire down- town at the Barrel House and when they arrived, police and pub- lic safety officers were already on the scene – and they are cross trained,” said Jonesborough Fire Chief Phil Fritts. “An officer went to the back alley and there was a structure back there used for their woodfire smokers. The top of the structure had wood on it and somehow that catches on fire. There was a lot of fire when they got there.”

Fritts said that there were people living in an apartment above the restaurant where the cooking area was and were out on the balcony during the fire.

“An officer had grabbed a fire extinguisher and shot down the steps so they could get down,” he explained. “Then the fire department came and knocked the fire down rather quickly. It did not get in the actual building itself – it was all contained outside.”

According to Fritts, issues with the fire code were identified that the Barrel House is going to need to correct.

“There are items that will need to be brought up to code within the next three to six months before the Barrel House can resume business activities,” Town Building Inspector Shawn Marshall explained. “These include bringing the kitchen up to code with a Class 1 hood and venting system, covering the current electrical panel box with a solid door that shuts and a separation between the storage area and the dining area by December 19, 2022.”

Marshall adds that to bring separation up to code, there must be a 1-hour fire wall with a fire suppression system or a 2-hour fire wall without a fire suppression system.”

“Until they get those things corrected, they are going to be down for a while,” Fritts said. “But there were no injuries, and no damage was done to the interior of the building. It could have been bad, but luckily the fire department wasn’t on a call anywhere else, and they had a real fast response, and everything worked great. If we had been out somewhere else and the response was delayed — that wouldn’t have worked so well. It looked a lot worse than it was.”

With all the buildings downtown being old and interconnected, Fritts added that it’s a very unique situation to fight fire in places like Jonesborough.

“You have to get on either side of it,” he said. “If it looks like the fire department is at the building burning, you have to get on either side of it and stop it because it’s a risk assessment. It’s like anything else; you have to triage it. Sometimes you have to cut your losses.

But the Barrel House was close. That was a lot of fire, but it didn’t get into the main part of the building.

“The officer that got there was (Jones- borough Public Safety Officer) Jeff White. It all just sort of fell in line.”

The building inspector is working with the business to get it up to code and back up and running and as quickly as possible.