Janesville72°

Blaze levels Lyons business

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Kayla Bunge
Mike Heine
January 4, 2008
— Water hauled by 20 fire departments may have saved downtown Lyons, where firefighters battled a blaze Thursday morning without access to fire hydrants.

The six-alarm fire destroyed Michals TV, 6063 S. Railroad St., and an upstairs apartment.


Lyons fire crews had the blaze nearly contained but then ran out of water, Lake Geneva Fire Chief Brent Connelly said.


Lake Geneva fire crews took over and went on defense to protect neighboring buildings.


“What we had chosen to do because of a lack of water was to save the other exposures,” Connelly said. “We became defensive to protect the other buildings.”


Most of the fire departments brought water tankers, Connelly said.


“Everyone did a fantastic job of keeping the fire from spreading to the buildings on either side, otherwise, we would have lost the whole block,” he said.


Firefighters from more than 20 departments in Walworth, Racine and Kenosha counties and several from northern Illinois were at the scene for more than six hours in the bitter cold.


Walworth County Sheriff David Graves said the call came in at 9:18 a.m., and the blaze was contained within about 45 minutes. No one was injured. Except for a broken window, none of the neighboring buildings was damaged, Connelly said.


Storeowner James Michals said he opened his TV shop about 9 a.m. He realized he forgot something at home and left briefly. When Michals returned, he saw smoke billowing out of the upstairs windows, he said.


Terry and Dulcie Harmon lived in the upstairs apartment with their two dogs and several birds. They were at not home at the time.


Greg Krawczyk, a TV technician, arrived before firefighters. Fearing people might be inside, he went in the back door of the apartment and tried to put out burning kitchen cabinets with a fire extinguisher.


Krawczyk went back outside to the front door, where he and Joe Schaefer, a Walworth County Board supervisor and owner of the nearby Ye Olde Hotel, rescued a Chihuahua named Chickie.


Krawczyk opened the front door to the apartment and saw the dog lying motionless. He passed it to Schaefer, who gave it mouth-to-snout rescue breaths.


“We brought him back,” he said. “It was like a dead carcass. It wasn’t moving. Its eyes were rolling, its tongue hanging out the mouth. I opened up his mouth and started breathing air into it. Within a minute or two, it came back.”


The men heard barking from the other dog, a rat terrier named Emma, but it never came out, Schaefer said.


The Harmons have lost all of their possessions but will be living with friends, Krawczyk said.


The fire started in the back of the upstairs apartment. An electrical problem is suspected as the cause.


Michals said the Harmons were having electrical problems Wednesday.


“Whenever they’d do something in the kitchen, they’d be breaking circuits,” he said.


The Harmons declined to be interviewed.


Michals said he’s already preparing to move his business to a new location. He transferred his business phone line to the private residence next door.


“It’s something to keep going until we can find another location,” he said.


Michals has been in business at that location for 35 years. The building used to house the post office. Michals bought it in the early 1970s and sold it to an Illinois man a few years ago.


“I’m lucky to be standing here, but it’s 35 years gone,” he said, as his daughters clung closely to his side.


Michals said his four daughters, ages 9 to 35, grew up in the back of the store, where they spent hours after school.


“They all have a history down at the TV shop,” he said. “I ran a little daycare out the back for two, three hours every night.”


Michals’ wife, Gerri, said the family would figure it out.


“One day at a time,” she said.


Michals is confident he and his family will recover soon.


“We’ll be OK.”



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