OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) - A fire that damaged a section of the
Owensboro Museum of Fine Art did not harm items in its collection,
including a French impressionist sculpture by Edward Degas.
The 30 firefighters at the scene simultaneously fought the blaze
in the John Hampden Smith House section while removing valuable art
pieces.
"We removed a piece first thing that's supposed to be worth $1
million," Fire Chief Fred Hina said. "We carried out 10 to 12
large pieces along with other smaller ones."
The fire appeared to have begun Friday around 2 p.m. while
roofers were working on the Smith section, said Assistant Fire
Chief Ronnie Heep.
"It was my understanding that they were using a torch up
there," Heep said. "That's certainly been known to cause fires in
the past." The official cause is still under investigation.
Employees for the roofing company, Bruce's Tri-State Roofing and
Sheet Metal, declined to comment.
"It's a complete and total loss to the roof and attic," Heep
said. "There was smoke and water damage to the first and second
floor. Roughly 99 percent of the exhibits were moved with no harm
done to them."
Hina said firefighters attacked the blaze from the inside,
instead of the top, to minimize water damage to the art.
Battalion Chief Steve Leonard said conditions were so bad at one
point that firefighters inside were signaled to evacuate.
"We decided to go from an offense attack to a defense attack,"
Leonard said. "We regrouped outside and made one more attack from
the interior and that was successful."
An hour passed before the fire came under control, Heep said.
"These guys rarely have to come out, but when they do, they do
a good job," city manager Ron Payne said. "They saved a lot of
art. They fought this right."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)