A Tuesday morning blaze near South 7th and Butternut Street resulted in the total loss of one building that contained two businesses and a church.
"Passerby were smelling burning wood and plastic," Abilene Fire Department Lt. Greg Goettsch said.
"We were unable to get on top of it early enough," Goettsch said. "The roof came in on it and that traps a lot of the fire underneath. That makes it extremely difficult to finish extinguishment."
Carolina Upholstery, 5-D Custom Hats and Leather and the Mission Good Samaritan are total losses.
Goettsch said the materials inside the building made things difficult for firefighters.
"Upholstery shops tend to have big volumes of foam rubber, materials, wood frames for sofas, that kind of thing. And that very much feeds the fire," Goettsch said. "We also had a facility that collects goods for poor or homeless people, such as clothing and blankets and that kind of thing--there was a great deal of fuel in that."
Goettsch said the fire department is investigating the cause of the fire. The blaze was so strong that firefighters were forced to go on the defensive and protect the surrounding area.
He said they have not seen such a devastating fire since the historic Matera Paper Co. building burned down in February.
Damon Albus, owner of 5-D Custom Hats and Leather, said he is in shock.
"Don't really know what to think right now--got the phone call this morning and was hoping for the best and got the worst," Albus said. "I've got some very old equipment that I used--the hatting equipment--60, 70, 80 years old and they don't make it no more....If I can just ask my customers to be patient and when we get back up and rocking, then we'll take care of everybody."
"People are always wondering why I live in Abilene and it's because it's filled with people that care and are concerned," Damon's mother Donna Albus said. "The fireman have gone above and beyond today to help in anything they can to salvage. The police have been by, family and friends--everybody extending a hand."
The hat and upholstery stores both have renter's insurance--Mission Good Samaritan does not.
The non-profit provides food, clothing and church services to the poor and to the homeless. Everything was destroyed, including their cooking and audio equipment and even their pews.
The church's pastor and her husband said they were completely blind-sided by the fire but are determined to work through it.
"The families this morning, they got together across the street and said 'what are we going to do?' I say, well, I know our Lord, everything he promise, he give us back. You know, whatever we lost, sometimes he got better things for us," Pastor Lydia Rodriguez said.
"The church has given us so much and maybe the community can help us out, because that's all we need, just help now," Max Rodriguez, Lydia's husband, said.
If you would like to make a donation to the church, call (325) 692-2787.