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Lindon • Early Wednesday morning, Bob Patch, owner of Patch's Majestic Metals, stood outside watching smoke rise from the building. Patch said he had been in business at the location for 31 years.
"It tears you up," he said without looking away from the burning structure. "It's your whole life."
Patch said that in November, he moved his business into the rear buildings and leased the front space to another business. He had little information about the fire, but did say that it started in the middle of the building and "went in all four directions."
Among other things, the fire reportedly damaged a massive 26,000-pound crane that Patch used in his metal working business. When asked if insurance would likely cover the damage, he raised his eyebrows and tilted his head to the side.
"I hope so," he said.
The fire, near 500 North and State Street, forced evacuation of two nearby homes one of which was destroyed and shut down a stretch of the Utah County town's main traffic arterial.
It was first reported about 4:30 a.m.
Lindon police Chief Cody Cullimore said the building likely would be a total loss due to multiple roofing collapses and structural weakening in general, and the monetary loss could be in the millions. Just before 1 p.m., a group of tractors descended on the building like a herd of iron dinosaurs and within minutes reduced it to a pile of rubble.
Cullimore said the building had to be destroyed because it was deemed unsafe. As a result of the fire, he said, the front of the building had begun to lean over the sidewalk and authorities were concerned that the entire thing could topple onto the street. Cullimore added that if the building collapsed it could cover multiple lanes of traffic.
In preparation for the demolition, crews spent much of the morning jack hammering the street to find gas lines. The gas to the building had been shut off at the meter, but Cullimore said authorities worried that demolishing the building could damage lines in the street. As a result, authorities had to find and deactivate those lines.
Cullimore said the building where the fire began had reportedly been leased to an import/export business. Workers were inside the building until 3 a.m. Wednesday, he added, but did not see anything unusual.
He added that there was no evidence yet that the fire was suspicious. However, Wednesday afternoon the investigation into the fire's origins was in the earliest stages. No injuries were reported.
The building, a former grocery store, is 75 to 80 years old, Cullimore said.
In all, nine people were forced from two homes, according to the Red Cross.
Among other projects, Patches Majestic Metals produced the prominent water tower at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Patch said. The ornate, almost Victorian structure is visible from the freeway and serves as a well-known landmark in northern Utah County.
Firefighters from Orem, Provo, Pleasant Grove and American Fork battled the flames.
Reporter Kimball Bennion contributed to this story