Restaurant, motel destroyed in Calera fire

CALERA – A Calera restaurant that was scheduled to open Friday, Feb. 16, and most of a hotel were destroyed in a Wednesday night fire that took Calera firefighters all night to extinguish.

Calera Fire Chief Sean Kendrick said firefighters were dispatched to Motel 6 on Alabama 25 at 9:38 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 14. When crews arrived, Kendrick said heavy fire and smoke was already engulfing one of the two hotel buildings.

“It took a couple of hours to get it under control,” he said. “We were there through the night extinguishing hot spots and small spot fires.”

Shortly after the fire, Jahmia Keebler, owner of Big J’s Grill and Café – the restaurant destroyed by the fire – created a Go Fund Me with a goal to raise $75,000 to help fund another restaurant. According to the Go Fund Me page, all-new kitchen equipment and dining room supplies were lost in the fire.

“We are asking that you would help us as we try to rebuild and find another location and open there!” the Go Fund Me page reads. “After spending personal and business funds we have I try again and with God’s help we will survive and we will overcome this obstacle!”

Kendrick said crews were actively working at the scene until 7 a.m. Thursday morning. Crews were still at the scene as of 10 a.m. to make sure the fire did not rekindle. Kendrick said one of the buildings is a total loss while the other received smoke damage.

Seventy to 90 hotel occupants were displaced by the fire, including the owner of the motel who lived in the building. One person, who had to be rescued from a building, received minor injuries during the fire and a cat was rescued from the adjoining building.

In addition to Calera firefighters, 11 other Shelby County agencies responded to the fire, primarily as a water source. With large structure fires, Kendrick said sometimes the amount of water needed exceeds the capacity of the water system, so other agencies are called upon to help provide water from their water systems.

“It’s a very labor-intensive process,” he said. “We have to have multiple people helping with the water. That’s in addition to regular firefighting going on.”

At one point, Kendrick said there were 70 emergency responders on the scene. During the ordeal, Kendrick said there was a “tremendous response” from the Calera community.

“Residents brought clothes and blankets for the displaced hotel occupants and water, Gatorade and snacks for the firefighters,” he said. “Firefighting is hard work and our energy needs to be replenished, so it’s nice for the community to provide that for us.”

Kendrick said the cause of the fire is being investigated.

“This is the largest structural fire the city of Calera has had in recent history,” Kendrick said.