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Classic Theater Burns in Athens...

Georgia Theatre on fire in Athens

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Friday, June 19, 2009

A major fire erupted Friday at the Georgia Theatre, an Athens landmark and center of the local music scene, police said.

Witnesses on the scene said the fire, which began around 7 a.m., was a major blaze and that the theater would likely suffer major damage.

The Georgia Theatre, a converted cinema, has served as a music venue for many well known Athens bands, including REM and the B-52s.

Doc Eldridge, a former Athens mayor who is currently president of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, said he saw a huge plume of black smoke when he arrived at his nearby office at 7:10 a.m.

The theater was “fully engulfed, with flames coming out above the building,” Eldridge said.

“There are four ladder companies here,” he said at 8 a.m. “Right now, the effort is just to contain the fire.”

Eldridge said he heard a loud bang coming from the fire about 8 a.m.

“The silver lining is it’s not a Rhode Island situation,” he said, referring to the 2003 blaze at a West Warwick, R.I., music club that killed 100 people. “I don’t think there are any injuries.”

“It’s definitely a piece of Athens history,” Eldridge said. “Since I was a child, we went there to see pictures and it’s been a music venue since the 1970s.”

Witness Bryan Harris said ladder trucks were on both sides of the theater, on Clayton and Washington street, pouring water straight down “and it looks like they’re spitting on it.”

— Staff writer Mike Morris contributed to this article.


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