The Fire That Started It All
On April 14, 1999, 21 years ago today, a fire started in downtown Concordia, KS. Buildings were lost, businesses were lost.
It was cold, windy, and sleeting the night the fire started inside Conn’s TV & Appliance, owned by Jim Conn. The local Fire Department paged-out an All Call. Marian Condray, owner of Sara Ann’s Hallmark, was notified by a wife of a Clyde Firefighter that her store was going to burn down. “I hadn’t been working since December because I was in a car accident. I told my husband I needed to go downtown. He wouldn’t let me leave just to watch my store burn to the ground,” Marian recalled. Luckily for the Condray’s, the fire didn’t make it down the block to Sara Ann’s Hallmark, currently Golden Rule Preschool.
Not so lucky was of course Jim Conn (Conn’s TV & Appliance), Verletta Moon (Image Apparel), Chris Saunderss (North Central Kansas Computers) Bob Jager (Concordia Office), and Annie Bergmann (Annie’s Fashions). Of the five businesses that went up in flames, Verletta and Annie were the two to relocate and reopen their businesses downtown.
“I remember standing outside across the street in front of the Citizens National Bank and the wind was blowing hard, thinking these poor firemen must be miserable to be putting out this fir
e as it was blazing and showed no signs of stopping. The concern was with the wind, the entire block would burn. My business, Annie’s Fashions, was chosen as the stopping point. The firemen had no choice but to break out the store front windows and aim their hoses on the inside common wall of the store saturating the entire contents. All night they fought this fire and by morning there were 5 lots that sustained loss. My store sat on the property of what is now the Broadway Plaza stage,” Annie said.
The fire was devastating. There was an immense amount of loss and it didn't stop with just the businesses. Many upstairs apartments were destroyed leaving individuals and families left with next to nothing.
Shella Thoman and her now husband Jeff were living above Image Apparel. "We were home and had just gone to bed when the neighbor knocked on the door. The hallway was full of smoke but it was coming from next door. I grabbed our wedding bands, purse, vehicle keys, and picked up cash off the kitchen table but set it back down. It never crossed my mind that we wouldn't go back in," Shella stated.