Today is Wednesday, August 23, 2017

MJ business owners survey fire damage

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Donnie Danner knows too well the old saying "lightning never strikes twice," is just that - a saying.

Danner is one of several business owners in Mt. Juliet who woke up to a phone call to inform them their businesses had burned in a predawn fire in the 11800 block of Lebanon Road. The fire was reported just before 2 a.m. during a major electrical storm and a lightning strike is the suspected cause.

Danner's business, Danner Karate, has been there for 27 years. He quickly drove to the scene in the dark and was able to see the full extent of the fire, smoke and water damage only after dawn broke hours later. He said he was stunned, and unfortunately, it was a case of déjà vu.

"It was in the early 1990's when my business suffered damage from another lightning strike," Danner said as he stood outside his nearly gutted business front. Eerily, a case with trophies stood untouched in the front of the studio, but otherwise, fire, smoke and water damage was extensive in the strip mall.

The fire that Fire Department of Mt. Juliet Chief Jamie Luffman suspects was caused by lightning also damaged Friendship Community Church business offices, Mt. Juliet Trophy and The Vape Place. There was an investigator on the scene early Wednesday to determine if lightning started the fire that appeared to have started on the church roof.

Danner said he needs to move forward and see if he will be able to salvage his business spot.

"I'm really hoping I won't have to move, but as I see more I'm beginning to wonder," he said. "My kids need a place to practice."

Danner hopes to find another location for at least an office while he figures out what to do.

District 1 City Commissioner Ray Justice stopped by the scene that is in his district and said he'd talked with Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenneth Martin and the parks director to see if there "is a possibility the community center could be used" while the businesses worked out logistics.

Luffman indicated the church offices and the trophy store were the most damaged and he hoped the other businesses could clean up and move forward to reopen.

FCC official Gary Byrum was at the scene surveying the damage to the church offices. The church meets at Elzie Patton Elementary School, and the church recently closed on a deal to purchase a strip mall right on the county line near Hermitage. However, he said they would have to figure out where to open new offices in the interim while they convert the recently-purchased strip mall to an outreach center community and church.

FCC member Teresa Synder was also at the scene. She said while the incident was tragic, she was so thankful no one was hurt and at the scene when the fire broke out. She said on Wednesday nights many children are at that location.

There were no injuries related to the fire, and the cause is still under investigation. Please read original story posted earlier on this website for more details.

Writer Laurie Everett can be contacted at

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