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Firefighters work to extinguish a fire in the historic H.E. Ketcham Lumber Building on Sunday night.

Officials with the Muskogee Fire Department are investigating what they say are suspicious fires that started inside the historic H. E. Ketcham Lumber building, 316 N. Main St. Sunday night.

Firefighters responded to the blaze around 8:30 p.m. Sunday and managed to extinguish the fires by 10 p.m., potentially saving the brick structure, which dates to the early 1920s.

Assistant Fire Chief Dean Busch said firefighters found spot fires that had been set inside the building. Nobody was inside the building or was injured, he said.

“There were burn spots that had started on and off,” he said.

Main Street between D. Street and Martin Luther King was blocked for a couple of hours Sunday night.

Muskogee Fire Capt. Derek Tatum said the Muskogee Fire Marhsal is being called in because the fire is of a suspicious nature.

Tatum said the Ketcham fire wasn’t nearly as bad as the Dec. 15 fires that gutted the insides of the Severs Block building on Broadway between Main and Second Streets.

Busch said he believes the Ketcham building could still be structurally sound.

With its deep red brick, wood frames and steep pitched gables, the H.E. Ketcham Lumber building has been a landmark in Muskogee since around 1920. The Ketcham family started a lumber business in Muskogee in 1907 and built the Main Street building around 1920. The Ketcham family went on to open the K-Wood Lumber and Home Center in 1973 and vacated the Main Street building in 1985. K-Wood closed in 2006.

Muskogee merchant Barbara Briggs bought the building last year and had expressed plans to convert it into a coffee shop, said Blake Miller, Briggs’ personal assistant. Briggs owns The Daily Grind gourmet coffee shop in Arrowhead Mall.

Miller watched firefighters drag hose into the building to extinguish the fire.

He said Briggs wanted to build an onsite coffee-roaster, with a tea house, coffee house and other shops in the building.

“We were about to start renovating it, try to revitalize downtown,” he said. “Apparently a police officer said he saw flames coming out of the building.”

The 116-year-old Severs Block building was heavily damaged by a fire Dec. 15. Streets surrounding the building were closed for several weeks. Building owners are now working to shore up the building.

Tatum said quick action by firefighters kept the Ketcham fire from spreading.

“They made a heck of a stop on this number,” he said.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at 918-684-2928 or Click Here to Send Email

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