One month ago first responders from across East Tennessee helped battle a massive blaze in Downtown Athens.

The fire was contained to one building, but affected several surrounding businesses.

Reminders of that day are still piled on the sidewalk, but business owners said they're coming back.

The sounds of construction fill the air, and it's welcomed noise in downtown Athens

"The strong will to survive," said City Manager Seth Sumner, "To come back stronger than ever."

"We're going to come back even stronger," echoed downtown business owner Patti Greek.

Piles of bricks and "closed" signs on business are both stark reminders of what happened July 1.

"They saved our city, and more importantly they saved this block, and they could've let it go," Greek said emotionally.                

Greek is talking about first responders who helped fight the fire.

"That day could've been so much worse," Sumner urged.       

The fire was contained to one building. Demolition on that building started Wednesday.

READ MORE | UPDATE: Several businesses affected by massive fire in downtown Athens

"To rebuild," Sumner said about downtown construction, "To make sure things are better tomorrow than they were yesterday, or one month ago in this case."

Surrounding buildings suffered extensive smoke and water damage.

"Basically, everything that's in here has got to leave," Greek said about her store that sits two doors down from the building the fire was in, "Every single thing."

Those businesses are still working to reopen, cleaning and getting rid of the smell smoke left behind.

"Not that a campfire is not a good fragrance, but we really don't want that fragrance," Greek said laughing, "We don't want to bottle that up."

Through the devastating fire, Greek said she's looking for the silver lining.                   

"And then you get to start all new," Greek said, "It's coming. It's coming." 

Sumner said businesses that had to close are hoping to reopen by the holiday season.

The cause of the fire is still being determined, arson was ruled out early in the investigation.