Roaring flames swept through an historic East Texas building last night, gutting the Old Town Mall in Gilmer. Today, investigators are trying to determine what caused the massive blaze. Last night, three fire departments reported to the scene on the downtown square on Henderson street. There isn't a person in Gilmer that doesn't know of the Old Town Mall.
The 77 year old building has been the home to dozens and dozens of businesses throughout the years. Friday morning, the news of it burning to the ground left many thinking they've lost more than a building, more like a part of their community.
"It's going to be a real impact, I ran outside and I seen this big blaze I said man this fires getting away" said area neighbor Lawrence Smith.
"The old part of Gilmer some of it's lost, the old building the charm yes" said Gilmer businessman Wayne Davis.
When firefighters arrived, they found the building engulfed by flames. Crews tried for over 2 hours to save the structure, but the building eventually crumbled under the stress of the fire.
"I think it's going to have a big impact on the community this was a meeting place for the Gilmer football boosters club" said frequent mall visitor Dennis Smith.
Over 40 people employed at the four current businesses housed there, are now out of work, and locals it couldn't have come at a worse time.
"Well it's going to impact a lot of people going to lose their jobs, impact the economy somewhat" says Davis.
It may be rebuilt, but most know, it just won't be the same. Fire departments from Gilmer, Longview, White Oak and Harmony responded to the blaze. Investigators believe a candle may have been left burning in one of the businesses. They're also looking into the possibility that old electrical wiring may be to blame. No one was injured, and all of the businesses were insured.