RANTOUL — The Rantoul building that was struck by fire at 109 S. Tanner St. Wednesday night is a total loss and will have to come down, and a tenant of the building has found a new home downtown.

George Papametro, who is a business partner with the owner of the building, Marion Valentine, said an insurance adjuster that inspected the building Thursday determined it would not be economically feasible to repair the building.  

Papametro, speaking prior to the final determination by the adjuster, had said the “walls are not stable.”

“Structurally, I don’t think the second floor is good enough. There’s too much damage there. I can’t believe (firefighters) were able to save that first floor.”

The building was built to house a mechanics garage. Frazier Garage operated there for several years. It had a 13-inch second floor, which kept the roof and second-floor contents from plunging to the first floor when the roof collapsed at the height of the fire.

Even if it could be salvaged, he said, “there’s things in there that can never be again. They don’t build it that way. They won’t make it that way.”

Meanwhile, TT Fasteners and Tool Sales, which has occupied the north end of the building for several years, will be relocating to a building that Papametro owns just around the corner on East Sangamon Avenue.

Papametro said everything that TT wished to salvage has been taken out of the building. He said the company will set up shop at his building at 112 E. Sangamon Ave.

He said the company will have its shop in the back of the building where he has had his office and will also have a storefront for walk-in customers.

Papametro said he plans to buy another building in Rantoul, where he will consolidate equipment and supplies that he has in several other locales. It will enable him to combine his office and shop.

Tadlock said TT will get back on the road with deliveries on Monday.

“I’m hoping to have close to 50 percent of my inventory restocked with new product by the end of next week, and my hope is we’ll be running a closed warehouse until we feel comfortable. We hope to open the store front the end of January, if not sooner. We are available at this time for local business.”

Tadlock said damage to his property was worse than some might have thought.

A van that was stored in the building as well as all of his inventory are a total loss.

“In talking with the fire department guys, since most of the stock we sell is nuts and bolts, even heavy smoke damage will make that stuff rust,” Tadlock said.

All of the computers in his business are water-damaged.

“It got heavily saturated,” Tadlock said. “There was about 3 feet of water in the building.”

In addition to the north end, he was also renting part of the south end of the building.

“Ninety percent of my business is my outside sales territory,” he said. “Although I do cherish my walk-in business, it is only about 10 percent.”

Tadlock said he has been overwhelmed by the number of customers who have reached out to offer support and help.

Four semi trailers have been offered for his use. He said Stan Wolken Trucking of Gifford and Meats Plus and Mark Rust Farms, both of Loda, have offered trailers. Also, he said the Warner family has given him permission to park the trailers on their property on Tanner Street, just south of the building.

Just as Valentine, Papametro and Tadlock were uptown much of the night as firefighters worked to contain the blaze, so were Loise and Peter Haines.

Loise Haines’ business, Downtown Thrift Store and More, is located just north of the Valentine building.

“I was impressed with (firefighters) and the police department,” Loise Haines said. She said the police blocked off the streets and kept people from wandering into the area.

Peter Haines said “it could have been a disaster” if firefighters hadn’t done such a good job.

Loise Haines said many people approached them during the ordeal and asked if they thought the fire would affect their building.

“I said, ‘You know what? As long as everyone is safe, the building can be replaced,’” she said.

The Haineses had driven by the store about 8 p.m., and everything was fine, Peter Haines said. Not longer after, firefighters got a call at 8:13 p.m. that the Valentine building was on fire. The Haineses were notified a few minutes after that.

“I thought, ‘Nah, it can’t be that bad.’ We came up here, and it was that bad,” he said.

A strong south wind was capable of blowing burning material onto the thrift store building.

“They really kept that side of the building contained,” Peter Haines said. “They were spraying the back of this building.”

Rantoul police officers blocked off the area and alerted five tenants of  apartments in the south side of the 100 block of East Sangamon Avenue that they needed to leave until the fire was contained.

Fire Chief Ken Waters said public works and power company crews disconnected lines in the area, and Nicor Gas disconnected natural gas service to neighboring buildings.

He said when firefighters were done putting water on the fire, the water department shut off hydrants “to make sure it shut down slowly so they didn’t pop a main or a hydrant out of the ground. We tapped that system to the max.”

dhinton@rantoulpress.com