Fire tears through downtown Hastings building

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HASTINGS, Neb — UPDATE 02/19/17:

Fire crews have been working day and night to put the last of the fire out at BG&S Transmission.

And it's not as easy as you may think. Especially with the hot spots sitting at the bottom of the pile.

"Instead of using a direct shot, we're using large volumes of water in hopes that we flood it out and get it put out," said Lt. Ben Erie of the Hastings Fire Department.

Hastings fire department says it took 750,000 gallons of water to put out the smoldering today alone. And they're hoping they've seen the last of BG&S's flames.

But that doesn't mean the area still isn't dangerous.

"Basically we have a building here, half demolished, half falling in and we've got some walls that are still up, but they're not structurally sound probably anymore," said Erie.

The Hastings Fire Department is taking an unfortunate situation as a learning opportunity. As they flooded the area, they also trained one another on how to fight large fires.

"We kind of used it as an opportunity to train. We don't often get a chance to do a full-size exercise like we did this morning," said the lieutenant.

After putting out the last of the fire, Lexington Avenue is back open. But HFD says to be careful of debris.

Fire crews will still be monitoring the scene to make sure no flare ups occur.
UPDATE 02/18/17:

A day after BG&S Transmission's fire, businesses are still feeling the heat.

Dennis towns, co-owner of Clock Tower Plaza, says businesses are seeing a change of pace.

"Lexington Street is closed down, so traffic has definitely slowed down, but as you can see on this side, it's pretty busy over here," said Towns

For one business on the blocked off section, they're seeing things completely different. For him, it's just another day at the office.

"We're very busy. It took some of our parking spaces, but it's a busy time of the year,' said Joe Bittfield, an H&R Block franchise owner.

Bittfield wasn't the only business to not slow down. For a music shop next door, it didn't affect them at all.

"It's not affecting us any today. Saturdays were usually closed anyways. Monday, I've got a couple of people to do lessons with in there and they'll be full steam ahead Monday, so I'm sure everything will be open then," said Jack Moore, a shop music representative.
B G & S Transmission, a business in downtown Hastings, was destroyed by fire Friday. The initial alarm was called in shortly after 9:00 a.m.

Crews reported heavy smoke coming from the auto repair business when the arrived on the scene. Mutual aid calls were made to neighboring towns to assist in the effort.

Fire quickly spread throughout the building, eventually collapsing walls and the roof.

Hastings Fire Chief Kent Gilbert told NBC Nebraska reporters at the scene that there were no injuries to firefighters as they worked the blaze. Also, all workers at the business were able to get out before the fire spread and were not injured.

Heavy smoke from the fire could be seen for miles and enveloped much of the downtown Hastings area. Traffic on Burlington Avenue, which is Highway 281 in Hastings, was blocked for hours as well.

By late afternoon, crews were beginning to return to their stations, but the building is expected to smoke and smolder throughout the night.

Near by businesses also sustained damages from the heat of the fire. Computer Hardware, directly across the street from the fire, reported cracked windows in their building. The Hastings Tribune also reported heavy smoke forced them to evacuate their building. Their afternoon press run was briefly delayed, but the Friday edition was printed.

B G & S Transmissions is a locally owned and operated business, that specializes in vehicle repair and towing.

The business offers services such as transmission repair, 4X4 repair, and clutch repair.

According to a local mechanic, the facility was likely filled with chemicals such as gas, oil, brake cleaning fluid, oxy acetylene torches, and transmission fluid.

Authorities say the fire was caused by a machine that workers were using to flush transmission fluid. Chief Gilbert says the machine malfunctioned and sparked, causing the eventual explosion. He also credits early photos as the reason they were able to find the cause so quickly.