by Lisa Tome
John Belew, Sr. was supervising work inside his damaged properties last week, but his mind was on the weekend.
Belew was planning to dress as Santa, climb aboard his motorcycle, and lead about 50 bikers across the Conowingo Dam to deliver Christmas presents to a domestic violence shelter in Harford County through Ride for Provide.
Belew is giving back in the wake of a devastating fire which damaged three Queen Street Rising Sun businesses and two apartments earlier this month. On December 4, shortly before 8:30 p.m. a two-alarm fire ripped through the three businesses and two apartments. It took 70 firefighters from Cecil and Harford counties and Chester and Lancaster counties from Pa. about an hour to bring the fire under control. Deputy State Fire Marshals reported that the fire originated inside Jon's Exotic Pets. An undetermined amount of pets died in the fire. A rabbit, bearded dragons, a king snake, four turtles, two guinea pigs, a hamster, and feeder mice survived.
Belew was in the pet store building watching as workers ripped out the interior. He reported that the two families that had been displaced have settled back in their apartments. "In both apartments, the families are in," said Belew.
Now he is focused on rebuilding the businesses.
"It's (the building) structurally sound. Right now, we're tearing the interior out to redo it," said Belew.
The pet store, sustained the most damage. He said that if everything goes as planned, the pet store will open its doors March 1. "People are anxious for us to open up," said Belew.
The week of the fire, a nutrition store had planned to locate in the end unit on West Main Street. Belew said they will move in. He expects that the nutrition store will open in mid January.
Caterer Lisa Welch, who owns Your Personal Chef, the middle business, reported that her equipment survived the smoke and water damage. Welch said Janes United Methodist Church in Rising Sun is allowing her to use their commercial kitchen while her business is being rebuilt. Belew said she should also be back in her store in January. While the building renovation is underway, he is making upgrades at the catering shop.
"Everything's been great. The town has been great. The people of the town have been great," said Belew. He also said that on three occasions, people have stopped by where the work is ongoing and treated the work crew to lunch. "And a lady is bringing supper to us tomorrow night," Belew said.
"The fire department did a good job of containing what they had. The Lions Club gave to the (apartment dwelling) families for Christmas. And they (children from the apartments) went to Shop with a Cop," said Belew.
He said the buildings were last remodeled in 1974. He's updating in the wake of the fire.
"We're going on. There's a silver lining to every cloud. We have valleys to go through to get to the mountain top. We are in the valley now and have to get to the mountain top," said Belew.
Click here to view a photo gallery from the December 4 fire.