Fire rips through section of Falls City business district

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FALLS CITY, Neb. -- A major fire completely engulfed Potrillos Mexican Restaurant in historic downtown Falls City Wednesday morning.

Smoke could be seen from 15-20 miles away as fire crews from Falls City and Hiwatha, Kan. battled the blaze with aerial machines, suppressing the fire from both the front and back ends of the building. Officials battled the flames in 17 degree weather (2 degree wind chill) for over three hours, trying to contain the fire to one building.

Potrillos is part of a complex of buildings at 15th and Stone streets. Business owners at Chaney Furniture and American Family Insurance both smelled smoke when opening their doors at 9 a.m. and immediately called 911. They suspect the fire started in the basement of the restaurant.

The owner of three apartments nearby said all three occupants evacuated and were safe.

Several businesses downtown were closed by Richardson County Emergency Management Director Brian Kirkendall.

Power lines were seen hanging around the buildings involved in the fire and power was shutoff from 14th Street to 20th Street.

The Richardson County Courthouse remained open.