Woodworking shop is total loss
By Cheryl Parker

Justin and Rebecca Kresser just happened to be driving by on 220th Street (old highway 20) east of Jesup when they noticed smoke coming from John Kies’ workshop. When no one came to the door, they called 911. They even moved a vehicle and attached trailer out of the way so the firefighters could have closer access when they got there.

It was about 4 pm on December 22, and the Kies family had just left minutes earlier to visit John’s mother, who lives at Winding Creek Meadows in Jesup. The Jesup Fire Department responded quickly, but, despite their best efforts over five hours, the shop has been declared a total loss.

Fire Chief Andy Trumbauer said they had about 15 firefighters and five mobile units on the scene. Volunteers from Fairbank and Independence also responded to the call.

John and Sally Kies moved their family into John’s childhood home in 1991. The shop, located fairly close to the family’s home, was there at that time. About five years ago, Kies put on a new steel roof and “beefed up” the rafters. He said the shop had accumulated about “thirty years worth of stuff” from not only his business, but also personal storage. When the firefighters arrived, they spent a lot of time pulling down the plywood ceiling and insulation to get to the attic, where it was burning the strongest.

Kies has been doing carpentry work his whole life, including custom cabinetry. He didn’t have any customer’s work in process at the time of the fire, but he had just milled and planed 1,000 board feet of ¼-sawn white oak and walnut (for inventory.)

Because he heats his shop with a woodburning stove, Kies said lots of folks have asked if that was where the fire originated. It was not. Kies has installed wood burning stoves for many customers, and knows the specifications inside out. The fire marshal has ruled the cause as spontaneous combustion. As a matter of fact, Kies says the last thing the firefighters did before leaving was open the door to the stove and flush out the box.

When he isn’t working, Kies enjoys helping with his church, especially the youth. This is why he had a Sno-Kone machine as well as many other unique items which were lost. Another favorite hobby is playing and building guitars. In the ashes are about 20 guitar blanks, which would have been turned into special order guitars.
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