East Texans describe downtown fire

By Layron Livingston - bio - email

Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

At least a dozen crews are battling a gigantic fire on North Spring Street. That's just behind the Smith County Courthouse.

It's in the same block as Levines, the Old New York Store, the Arcadia Coffee Shop, and the Keith Miller Law offices. It appears the fire spread to the Sinclair and Wright architecture firm right next door. Right now, we know at least one firefighter has been taken to the hospital, we don't know the extent of his injuries, but we are told he seems to be doing fine.

Firefighters from Bullard have now joined Tyler, Lindale and Dixie firecrews to help control a massive blaze which at several points during the night, blanketed downtown Tyler with thick black smoke. Crews are still trying to keep the blaze from spreading to any other downtown buildings. As the saying goes where there's smoke, there's fire, and from what witnesses said, this one had to be huge.

"I saw a huge billow of smoke and we thought it was the courthouse," said Noemi Evans who works at the courthouse.

But the smoke was coming from the building across the street. 113, 115 and 117 North Spring Street. Matt Draffen was next door at Acadia Coffee Shop with his band.

"We were just practicing and Holly started to smell the smoke," said Draffen.

"We grabbed, like all of our equipment; drums and guitars. We were out in like 10 seconds," said Holly Powell.

Firefighters arrived on the scene along with Tyler P.D. They immediately began knocking on doors. Melanie Thibodeaux lives behind the burning building.

"I walked around front," Thibodeaux said. "They all came running and they told us to evacuate. I don't think I've ever seen that much smoke before in my life!"

"At this point, we've got at least three separate buildings involved," said Deputy Fire Marshal Paul Findley. "We'll be here all night."