Time to regroup for McConnells

By Matt Meir

REAL estate agent Travis McConnell stepped out from his LJ Hooker office in River Street, Maclean, yesterday to see his father's building burning.

"I heard someone yell, 'there's a fire' and the rest is history," he said.

"I saw it from its infancy. I watched it burn."

Travis and his father John McConnell had plenty of questions, but few answers, after the blaze.

"It happened pretty quickly," John said as he stood near what was left of his building.

The fire destroyed the building's upstairs storage area yesterday morning shortly after 9am, and cause damaged to the downstairs shop front.

Ruth Toyer was one of the first to find out about yesterday's fire in Maclean.

"The guy from the video shop came in and said 'you might want to close up, my place is on fire'," the Sew Excited employee said.

Ms Toyer grabbed what she could and fled the building. John McConnell said he had owned the building for more than 20 years, one of several Maclean properties controlled by the family.

He said Maclean Video Library owner Tim Shannon had leased the building for more than 10 years. Mr Shannon could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Understandably, the McConnells had little idea what caused the blaze.

"We know as much as you do," Travis said.

Grafton police will determine what caused the fire after inspecting the building yesterday afternoon.

Travis said he was taken aback by the fire's ferocity.

"It probably took fire crews about 20 to 25 minutes to put out," he said.

"It was quite shocking; you don't expect a fire like this."

Although the fire made short work of the top of his father's building, Travis said it could have been far worse.

"(I) wouldn't want it to happen at midnight," he said, a reference to the idea the fire may well have spread to other areas had it occurred outside business hours when few people were around.

Yesterday's blaze was not the McConnell's first encounter with a commercial fire.

In 2003, fire broke out in LJ Hooker's Maclean premises the same offices Travis left yesterday to see his father's nearby building ablaze.

Once again, the family will have to pick up the pieces.

"I don't know what we'll do now. We just have to regroup and find out what's going on," Travis said. "There's not much we can do about it."

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