The Jefferson Pizza Ranch at 206 N. Wilson Ave., just off the town square, was severely damaged by a fire early Wednesday.
The fire was reported by area residents at 12:16 a.m., according to Jefferson Police Chief Mark Clouse. Firefighters were on the scene until daylight hours, and smoke was still coming from the building at 8:15 a.m.
The interior of the restaurant was severely damaged. The fire was contained to Pizza Ranch although the three businesses to the south received heavy smoke damage.
The state fire marshal will investigate to determine the cause of the fire.
Veteran Greene County Emergency Management Director Dennis Morlan said Jefferson Police officer Jason Kroeger was the first on the scene. Kroeger later told Morlan “that the smoke was so thick on Wilson Street, he was unable to see the front of the building,” Morlan said.
Jefferson Fire Chief Randy Love served as the incident commander, and Morlan said Love’s leadership and tactical decisions during this blaze were impeccable.
At one point early in the fire, flames were seen shooting from the roof at the rear of the building. Morlan said he was concerned the entire quarter block – if not more – could be lost.
The Pizza Ranch building underwent several renovations over the years and had several layers of ceilings. Among other places, the fire was located between the various layers of ceilings and the roof, Morlan said.
He said the aggressive and exhaustive interior attack by Jefferson firemen were all that saved this structure and the rest of the block.
The entire inventory of air bottles used with the department’s self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBAs) were emptied, Morlan said. As a rule of thumb, after a fireman has used two air bottles, they are physically drained. Morlan said he “has no doubt that the individual Jefferson firemen exceeded the two-bottle rule and gave it their absolute all to save the building.”
Agencies assisting Jefferson Fire Department included the Churdan Fire Department, Grand Junction Fire Department, Carroll Fire Department with their aerial truck, Jefferson Police Department, Greene County Sheriff’s office, Greene County EMS and Alliant Energy.
“After the fire goes out, it gets dark and cold on the fire ground.” Randy Bunkers personally delivered two large boxes of donuts to the scene, and the Jefferson Kum & Go provided hot coffee and cups. Both donations were deeply appreciated, Morlan said.
Morlan said he is “personally very proud of Greene County’s public service agencies. Each agency takes pride in being able to provide the best possible service in their jurisdictions. However, we all know that when ‘the big one’ happens, we all need each other, and we come together to provide the best possible service for our citizens.”
Tori Riley is the editor and publisher of GreeneCountyNewsOnline.