Building Is Total Loss, Owners Not Sure Where To Go From Here
Darren Doyle, story and photos:
Even with nearly every Edmonson County fire department on scene and two others from outside the county, a local restaurant was lost in the early morning hours of January 31, 2019.
Laura's Hilltop Restaurant, owned by Laura Jacobs and her husband Jeff, was a total loss in the fire, according to firefighters at the scene. The popular eatery was located in the Riverhill Center, next door to Hilltop Quickstop.
Emergency Management Director Terry Massey said the building had two different roofs: the original, which was covered, then another with a different pitch or angle that was added later, mostly for aesthetics. He said once the fire traveled in between the two roofs, saving the structure became virtually impossible.
The Jacobs are no strangers to losing property to fires. Nearly four years ago to the day, the former location of Jacobs Home Furnishings burned on January 30, 2015. Jacobs rebuilt the store and recently moved into a new location in the Riverhill area, in the former Dollar General building.
Laura's suffered a fire not long after that, which was determined to have started from faulty wiring in the ceiling, but the damage was contained and the restaurant made a fairly quick recovery. Firefighters were able to grab some of the personal belongings and photos from the building before the fire spread, but the building soon succumbed to the flames.
"I don't see how we can save any of this here," said Jeff Jacobs. "I would like to say we'll rebuild it but I don't know. We'll have to wait until daylight to get a better idea of what we've got here, but I just don't know. This is Laura's life. This is all she knows--14 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are also 22 people employed here. I don't know what we're going to do."
The Jacobs family was overcome with emotion as relatives, employees, and other friends tried to console them in the freezing cold. The temperature was around 10 degrees with brutal wind chills. The entire parking lot quickly froze over from the thousands of gallons dumped on the fire and most all firefighters on scene had their clothing frozen as well.
All county fire departments were paged just after midnight. The Brownsville, Chalybeate, Wingfield, Kyrock, Bear Creek, and Lincoln Fire Departments were the county departments on scene. Alvaton Fire Department assisted with their ladder truck, which allowed firefighters to rise above the flames and apply water directly to the largest source of the fire. Smiths Grove FD also responded.
EM Director Massey said the cause of the blaze was undetermined and that the state fire marshal had been notified. The Jacobs said that employees thought they smelled an odd scent earlier today but Jeff Jacobs said the entire place was checked out and nothing suspicious was found. The Jacobs said they didn't know what could've caused the fire.
Traffic was detoured around the Riverhill Center via HWY 70 and Sandy Flat Road. Also assisting was the Brownsville Police Department and the Kentucky Highway Dept. of Transportation.
**Update 4:52am: Jeff Jacobs sent the Edmonson Voice a video clip from restaurant surveillance footage that shows the fire starting at a prep table in the kitchen where Jacobs said is the location of a compressor. He said the time of the video is about three hours after employees left for the night. You can view the video on Jacobs' Facebook page by clicking here.