Jacksonville fire victim: 'Once I saw the place burning, I knew - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Jacksonville fire victim: 'Once I saw the place burning, I knew I lost everything'


What's left of an East Texas business will soon come tumbling down. Monday, city officials in Jacksonville started making plans to demolish Yum Yum's Texas Style catering in downtown.

The business, which is in the 200 block of Main Street, was destroyed in a fire early Sunday morning. The Jacksonville Fire Chief says everything is still under investigation, but they do know the fire started in the back of the building, where the kitchen is.

"I was upstairs just watching TV and playing my video games and I heard two booms and I went downstairs to see what it was. There was smoke coming up the staircase and when I came down from the door I was coming from, the window was busted out by it. There was smoke just rolling out of the building and going into the sky. It was a lot of smoke," says Jeral Kopelow.

Kopelow, along with the business co-owner and his wife lived in the apartments above the catering business. Kopelow was the only one home when their home and livelihood went up in flames.

"Once I saw the place burning, I knew I lost everything, so that's why I just... I said, 'It's over. That's it. I can't do anything about it anymore,'" says Kopelow.

The three people who lived upstairs are left with nothing and for Kopelow, it's a familiar feeling.

"At one time I was homeless, so I know what it feels like to have nothing," he says.

Jacksonville Fire Chief Paul White says smoke damaged surrounding buildings, but the bulk of the fire damage is inside the catering business. Main Street was reopened to traffic Monday, but a portion remains blocked off for safety. Chief White says bricks have fallen from what is left of the building. White, the public works director and the city manager met Monday to try to determine the best way to demolish the building. They say it's very unstable.

"The walls aren't supported in any way. They're just free standing brick walls right now so they could easily fall," says White.

White says there's nothing suspicious about the fire, but the investigator will continue trying to find out what started it. The business owners say they do plan to rebuild. For now, Jeral is staying with a local pastor who offered him housing. The couple who also lived upstairs are in a hotel.

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