First responders said no injuries were immediately reported when the front of a three-story building collapsed Monday afternoon on West Main Street in Hillsboro.
The front portion of the vacant building at 119 W. Main St. collapsed shortly after 3:30 p.m. Monday, and police, fire and EMS crews were at the scene within minutes, stopping traffic and clearing the scene.
Debris covered the sidewalk and officials warned bystanders to avoid a large power line that had fallen as a result of the collapse. Crowds of spectators from nearby businesses and government offices quickly gathered.
Lt. Branden Jackman of Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District said the surrounding buildings were evacuated and utilities to the building were shut off, though emergency crews were still monitoring for mixed and explosive gas in the area.
Jackman said the first priority for emergency crews was ensuring safety in what he called the “collapse zone,” a perimeter around the building extending out one and a half times as high as the structure stands.
A large crack in the western wall of the building had first responders concerned about a “secondary collapse,” Jackman said.
The lieutenant said he had “no clue” how long it would be before the 100 block of West Main Street would be clear for traffic.
“We’re going to be here for a while,” he said late Monday afternoon.
Mayor Drew Hastings said the cleanup process will begin with securing debris that poses a safety hazard, then officials will determine what to do with the rest of the building.
Jackman said while no injuries were immediately reported, a juvenile eyewitness in the area was hit by the power line when the building fell. Jackman said the juvenile refused treatment and gave a statement to authorities. According to Jackman, the juvenile said there was no one else around when the building collapsed.
According to Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie, a person in Cundiff’s Flowers, a shop next door, said the building was making noises “more than usual” before it fell.
The City of Hillsboro deemed the building unfit for habitation in April, and orange signs in the windows warned bystanders to keep their distance. The alley on the western side of the building was closed because of the structure’s condition, McKenzie said.
The building formerly housed a jewelry store in the front. A martial arts dojo is located in the back, officials said.
There was some dispute Monday as to who owned the building. Mayor Drew Hastings said he had put in an offer to purchase the building, but that it was on hold pending “issues with the building owner.”
But Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley said while his office’s records show the Steven Fettro family owns the building, he was informed that Hastings had purchased it.
Hastings and McKenzie said at the scene that the building collapse reiterated the need for stringent building code enforcement in Hillsboro, a topic that has sparked heated debate in recent months.
Anton Weissman, the city’s building official, has taken a hard line on code enforcement since he was hired last year, and a number of business owners have complained about Weissman’s approach. Weissman previously said he is simply doing his duty.
“What’s right is right, what’s wrong is wrong,” he said in an earlier interview. “I give everybody a chance and I work with everybody … I try to be as human and workable as possible.”
It was Weissman who deemed the collapsed building and three other structures further down the street uninhabitable, including the old Parker House, the building housing Momma’s West Main Cafe and the former home of a local AAA office.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570.