JFD Official Says Handlebar Fire Could Have Been Much Worse

By Jeremy Coumbes on August 4, 2020 at 2:57pm

Jacksonville Fire Department officials say the owners of a downtown eatery had some luck on their side despite the department responding to the place of business twice in a matter of hours.

Jacksonville Police responded to a burglar alarm at the Handlebar Bar and Grill on South Main Street yesterday morning. The responding officer found the building to be secure with no sign of entry and no initial sign there was anything wrong other than a false alarm.

Jacksonville Fire Department Lieutenant Dan Klendworth says not long after, a call came in for firefighters to head to the scene.

Initially when the call came in, it came in as a burglar alarm, we are thinking why are we going to a burglar alarm? Then the second thought is, the Handlebar is not open at that point in the morning, so we just thought someone was in there cooking or getting something ready for the day maybe. So when headed that way, then it came in as a structure fire, and we no sooner got out the door and found out our chief was on scene.”

Lieutenant Klendworth says Chief Doug Sills had happened to be running some errands for the department when he saw the JPD vehicles and stopped to see if any help was needed.

He says when firefighters first arrived just before 8 a.m., there was no visible sign of a fire, until they were able to make entry into the building.

When I went in, I saw the back bar where the mirror and all the bottles are set up, was all in flames. The flames were up to the ceiling at that point. The guys with the hose got it put out pretty quick. There was still a little heat and a lot of smoke in there so it took us a while to ventilate the place. We opened the front and back doors and closed the side doors so we could get our fans set up.”

Klendworth says the fire was contained to the back bar area, and although it received a good amount of damage from the fire, they were able to extinguish it in less than five minutes.

He says the owner had been in earlier in the morning and had rearmed the security system before leaving, and that probably was what saved the building from more extensive damage. Klendworth says they can only assume that the smoke and flames tripped the motion sensors, which then notified the police department something was wrong.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office conducted an investigation and although the area of origin of the fire was able to be determined, no ignition source was found, and the cause of the fire is deemed undetermined at this time.

Klendworth says if the fire had gone another five minutes, it likely would have meant extensive damage to the building.

Firefighters were called back to the scene at approximately 11:30 am after a semi-truck trailer clipped a power line, knocking it to the ground. Klendworth says the semi was there to move food inventory as utilities had been cut off to the building during the fire and investigation.

He says fire officials helped block off the area until Ameren crews were able to repair the line.