CLARKSVILLE – It took more than two hours to contain a fire that broke out around noon Wednesday in the brick and block building that houses Muhly’s Little Restaurant at 137 Center Street in Clarksville. It was unclear if the fire started in an upstairs apartment or in the kitchen of the restaurant.
“Somebody had just bought a pop and a few items in the store and he came back in and yelled for everybody to ‘get out, get out, there’s a fire,’” said Eileen Muhly, owner of the store and restaurant. “He said, ‘You’ve got a bad fire out here.’”
Muhly said the flames were shooting out of the roof above the kitchen and an apartment she recently rented out. She quickly phoned the tenant.
“I reached him at work. His kids sometimes stay with him, but they were with their mother. I know it sounds cliché but the main thing is nobody got hurt. I’m more concerned about these guys,” Muhly said, motioning toward the firefighters.
Volunteers from the Clarksville, Jefferson, Rices Landing, Denbo Vesta 6, Richeyville and East Bethlehem volunteer fire departments responded to the scene. Clarksville firefighters found themselves at a disadvantage when the company’s pumper truck began to leak fluid, rendering it inoperable.
With just nine days until the start of the third annual Clarksville Festival, Aug. 15-17, the fire cast a pall over the town as residents gathered along the street and in a nearby parking lot Wednesday.
In Clarksville, the Muhly businesses are a mainstay. The town that once had its own gas station, theater, hardware store, hotel and several other businesses now has just a nursing home, auto repair shop and the Muhly businesses.
“It’s the only thing we have in this town,” said Dee Foster Harvilla.
The restaurant, along with a separate business, the Muhly’s Little Store, were joined by a wooden frame structure that was gutted. Firemen saved the store by wetting its roof to keep fire from spreading to it. As firefighters made their way through the lower half of an unused portion of the building, water sloshed with each step of their boots and pieces of the ceiling could be seen falling around them.
Watching sadly from across the street, Summer Wortman, 21, a waitress at Muhly’s, said she had “just started to get more hours. Now, I’m unemployed,” she said.
A determination as to the cause of the fire is pending investigation by a state police fire marshal, according to Jefferson Volunteer Fire Company Assistant Chief Brian Wise.