Storm-damaged Cordova hit by third fire in 17 months - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Storm-damaged Cordova hit by third fire in 17 months

Cordova has had a slow road to recovery and three fires in 17 months hasn't helped. Source: WBRC video Cordova has had a slow road to recovery and three fires in 17 months hasn't helped. Source: WBRC video
The scene Sunday night when a fire broke out in the storm-damaged downtown. Source: WBRC video The scene Sunday night when a fire broke out in the storm-damaged downtown. Source: WBRC video
CORDOVA, AL (WBRC) -

The third fire in 17 months has further damaged downtown Cordova, which was hit during the tornado outbreak in April 2011.

The section of downtown Cordova went from the hearbeat of this small town to heartbreak in a matter of seconds when a tornado ripped through April 27, 2011.

The city immediately evacuated its old City Hall, fenced off the street and then progress stopped. Nearly 17 months later, the street has looked the same except for the three times fire crews came to put out the flames.

The first fire last year may have been Mother Nature but the fire in June and this weekend are both suspected arsons.

"It just needs to be tore down. It's a mess. So we can start rebuilding after the tornado," Jeff Traweek, Cordova resident, said.

Another resident, Michael Davis, had one idea on why the buildings might catch fire so easily.

"There's so much lumber and pine in those old buildings that there ain't no way of putting them out. Like I said, if they don't get rid of those buildings in town, somebody's gonna get hurt," Davis said.

The frustration has gotten so bad, Cordova's Fire Chief is now actually having to explain why he can't just let the block burn to the ground.

"We can't do that [let the block burn]," Chief Harbison said. "It's a whole safety factor. The very first fire we had it started in one building and literally jumped across the street and got the next one. So we couldn't have 7 or 8 buildings burning at one time, we couldn't control it."

Chief Harbison not only has to put out these fires, but he's also the one in charge of pressuring FEMA into giving the city the permission and $1 million it needs to demolish the damaged downtown.

The community is wondering why it's taking so long. FEMA told Harbison the delay is due to the fact that they're not accustomed to being asked to demolish a whole downtown. The last Harbison heard was that he would have an answer by the end of October, which can't get here soon enough for him.

"They can't see the progress that's being made," Harbison said of the community. "It's small steps, but it's all paper. And as soon as these buildings start coming down, they can finally start getting some relief. But we can't do that until we get that funding from FEMA."

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