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Fire Damage/Downtown Jackson

  • 3 min to read
Fire Damage/Downtown Jackson

Gambill Building Burns to the Ground

Pile of bricks all that is left from downtown staple 

Older citizens were waxing eloquently on social media about the building’s history. Two families were left homeless having lost all of their possessions and, even more sorrowfully, all of their beloved pets.

A thriving downtown business was involuntarily closed, perhaps forever. A church was completely destroyed. The owner of the building has suffered a total loss, forevermore depriving her the income the rents provided.

The Gambill Building was an institution in down town Jackson, Kentucky. It is now nothing more than a smoldering hole in its once quaint, small town, skyline.

The building caught fire early Friday morning, sometime between the hours of 2-3:00 a.m. The fire, which consumed it, was still smoldering and producing flame more than three days later. Had it not rained overnight Monday and some of Tuesday morning it may well have burned even longer. 

We interviewed a person who had been at the scene and who reached out to this author. He told us he didn’t want to be identified in the article.  

The gentleman reported giving this information to authorities, including the identity of the speaker. He told the Times-Voice, “There is a guy here in town bragging he started the fire. He told me his friends and he were trying to break into Petals. When they couldn’t break in they just burned it to the ground.”

The official report, right now, contradicts what this person has related. According to it, the fire was of unknown original and arson was not suspected. However, initial findings are often subject to change when investigators receive credible information.  

There was a wild rumor swirling around that a person presented to the police department reporting his son missing since Thursday night, hours before the fire. This gentleman’s son was reportedly homeless and had been living on the street.

We contacted Chief Haddix and asked him directly about the person who reported his son was missing. We wanted to know his name and whether he is a suspected victim of the blaze or a target of any investigation into the fire’s origin. 

Chief Haddix called this reporter and said there was a person missing since Thursday evening. However, Chief Haddix told the newspaper there is nothing of which he is aware connecting this person’s disappearance with the fire.

“Have you ever smelled a dead body burned up in a fire? Well, it is pretty distinctive. We have been over the site numerous times without that smell being either smelled by or reported to us,” Chief Haddix told the Times-Voice.

We have also heard a person called the Kentucky Fire Commissioner’s office regarding the fire and the efforts to extinguish the blaze. According to information given the newspaper, it was a bystander who filed an official complaint against fire department personnel and its efforts to extinguish the fire. The specific content of the complaint wasn’t disclosed.

Bebe Long, matriarch of one of the families now homeless, told us, “It is immeasurable what was lost. We lost things from valuables to sentimental and irreplaceable things together with three beloved pets which were part of the family. We will feel the effects of this incident for a very long time.” 

Linda Combs, the owner of the building, told us, “I didn’t have the building insured so it was a total loss for me. I am furious and I want the parties responsible for this tragedy brought to justice.” 

We asked her if she believed there was a competent response to the call the building was on fire and she said, “I would just as soon not respond to that right now. I will be taking a hard look at this situation.”

The community’s response has been staggering. “We have been given clothes, offered leads on new places to live, given money to help us attempt to replace some of what was lost, and even had one family offer to take the whole lot of us into their home to stay for an indefinite period of time until we found substitute lodging,” Bebe Long told the newspaper. “The tremendous heart of this community has shown itself and it is beautiful.” 

So many questions remain unanswered, so many issues lack resolution. About all we do know, as a community, is Jackson has lost a long-standing landmark. However, much more than that was lost. 

A business owner is now without a thriving on-going concern. A local church has been involuntary closed.

A building owner is out the profit the rents generated and the actual building she formerly owned. Two families are without homes and turned out into the streets. All will feel the effects from the night of this fire for a very long time.

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