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Published: Wednesday, 6/20/2001

Dum Dums fail test of fire


ARCHBOLD - Dean Spangler wandered around the smoldering ruins of his candy warehouse yesterday handing out free Dum Dum suckers, but exhausted firefighters weren't too excited about the offer.

Archbold firefighter Matt Welch, who had to dodge falling boxes of burning Dum Dums during the fire, tucked Mr. Spangler's candy behind his ear.

“I told him I was kind of sick of seeing Dum Dums,” Mr. Welch said.

No wonder. Besides gutting a warehouse, the fire consumed more Dum Dums than the population of the United States could in a day. An estimated 350 million Dum Dums worth $6.5 million were destroyed.

Archbold firefighter Matt Welch, with a Dum Dums sucker tucked behind his ear, takes a break from fighting the Spangler Candy Co. warehouse fire. Archbold firefighter Matt Welch, with a Dum Dums sucker tucked behind his ear, takes a break from fighting the Spangler Candy Co. warehouse fire.
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More than 100 firefighters from six fire departments spent 12 hours battling the fire that transformed tons of the suckers into mountains of hot, sticky syrup as tall as 20 feet high.

No one was injured.

The fire destroyed the 52,000-square-foot warehouse and damaged or destroyed all of the Dum Dums inside. It did not harm a collection of antique cars and other memorabilia in a nearby building.

Mr. Spangler, president of Bryan-based Spangler Candy Co., said the candy that was destroyed represented about 15 percent of the company's annual inventory of Dum Dums.

Greg Spangler, chairman of the company and a cousin of Dean, said the inventory was insured. He was in a good mood, despite getting an early-morning call from his vice president of operations:

“He called me and said he was watching Dum Dums melt,” Greg Spangler said.

Dum Dum fans shouldn't worry about any problems tracking down the suckers, which have been in production since 1924.

“We're increasing production immediately,” Mr. Spangler said. “There's no Dum Dum shortage; we'll work some extra time.”

Mr. Spangler said the company recently decided to expand production at its factory in Byran, where all of the candy is made, but that process could take until winter. Until then, he said extra shifts will be needed to make up for the loss.

Spangler, which employs about 400 people, had been using the Archbold warehouse for a little less than a year. It is one of several warehouses the company owns. It is the only one in Ohio.

Ed Oberhaus of rural Napoleon owns the warehouse. He said the building, which was insured, was built in 1965 and was used to house his garage-door-parts business, which he sold in 1987.

Mr. Oberhaus is well-known in the Archbold area for owning and running the Oberhaus Cars and Collectibles Museum, about 50 feet behind the warehouse. The collection has 79 automobiles, 224 dolls, and an assortment of other collectibles.

Mr. Oberhaus said he intends to try to keep the museum open while cleanup progresses.

Firefighters from the 34-member volunteer Archbold fire department praised neighboring fire departments for their help. Fire crews from Wauseon, Fayette, Ridgeville Corners, and Napoleon pitched in.

“We definitely needed them,” Mr. Welch said. “There's no way we could have knocked it down by ourselves.”

Archbold fire Chief Andy Brodbeck said the fire was the worst to hit Archbold in two years.

“It was real intense for the first three hours, and by 6 a.m., we had it under control,” he said.

Dennis Howell, Archbold administrator, said the piles of candy will be trucked to a landfill. But before they are, Mr. Welch said he had an idea:

“I'm thinking if there's any salvageable, I'll take some home to my little boy.”

Blade staff writer Rachel Zinn contributed to this report.

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