The owners of a landmark restaurant in eastern Indiana hosted nearly 70 firefighters for a free meal, thanking them for their work putting out a blaze that badly damaged its building a year ago.
The firefighters from some 10 departments were among an estimated 500 people who attended Sunday’s event at Willie & Red’s restaurant in downtown Hagerstown. The restaurant was known as Welliver’s Smorgasbord for 60 years until new owners took it over in 2010.
Hagerstown Fire Chief Rick Cole praised firefighters for working together and presented appreciation plaques to each department on behalf of restaurant owners Mike and Penny Wickes, the Connersville News-Examiner reported.
The Wickes reopened the restaurant in November after extensive renovations from the fire that wrecked much of the roof and upper floor.
Nathan Ulerick, a member of the Dublin Fire/EMS in a nearby Wayne County town, said the dinner was “awesome,” but not necessary.
“e don’t expect it,” Ulerick told the Palladium-Item. “Volunteer firefighters do it for free.”
Penny Wickes said she was pleased so many community members joined in showing support for the firefighters.
“The firefighters seem like they’re really enjoying it,” she said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
The June 2012 fire broke windows and led to some smoke and water damage in the adjoining Nettle Creek Museum building in the town about 50 miles east of Indianapolis. Museum director Tom Butters praised the firefighters for saving its collection, including early automotive memorabilia.
Repairs are still being made but Butters said he hopes the museum will reopen by the town’s Jubilee Day festival on Aug. 17.
“We came within five minutes of losing the whole building,” he said.
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