Fire Destroys Several Graceville Outlet Stores

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Folks in Graceville had their hands full Saturday afternoon and into the evening battling a monster fire. It destroyed parts of a big landmark in the community.

The call went out around 4:30 Saturday afternoon about a fire at the Dollar General Store in the Graceville Outlet Center, but the fire went on to claim many stores as it burned for more than two hours.

Graceville City Manager Ugene Adams said, "Probably in terms of square footage and damage, it's probably the biggest (fire) in the history of the town."

So big that every volunteer fire department within the smell of smoke came to lend a hand.

"You've got Esto, Bonifay, Chipley, Campbellton, Jackson County, there's at least seven to eight volunteer fire departments here. That's 65 to 70 working."

The firefighters battled the blaze for hours as the community stood by and watched the fire spread from the Dollar General, to several adjacent stores and the bingo hall that shared the plaza.

For a rural community like Graceville, the outlet center was a popular gathering spot.

Milton Brescott, a Graceville resident, said, "It's going to be a sore for the community here because everybody in the country came here. They like it."

The firefighters did get a little help from mother nature when it began to rain.

Cottondale volunteer firefighter Lora Homan said, "It will cool it off, cool off all that steel that's in that building. It will help."

Investigators haven't said what exactly started the fire. The initial speculation is that it could be electrical related. No one was seriously injured, but one firefighter suffered from heat exhaustion and was treated at the scene.