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Published: Monday, 2/13/2006

2 die, 1 hurt in Findlay blaze

BY JOSHUA BOAK
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A firefighter holds down a firehose as he directs water on the burning A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc. building in Findlay. A firefighter holds down a firehose as he directs water on the burning A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc. building in Findlay.
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FINDLAY - Two men died and a third was taken to Toledo Hospital after a predawn fire destroyed a downtown building yesterday, police said.

Victims Chris Kohli, a painter, and William Wagner, a retiree, lived in apartments above the offices of investment adviser A.G. Edwards & Sons at 419 South Main St.

Jeremy Neece, who once kept an apartment inside the two-story building, was friends with Mr. Kohli. "It was his life to paint other lives," he said.

Shaken by the unexpected loss, Mr. Neece said he intended to gather portraits done by Mr. Kohli, who was trained in Paris, later that evening.

"We're going to hold a memorial for him on his terms," Mr. Neece said.

"We're going to be all around his art."

Firefighters had arrived at the two-story building about 5 a.m.

They pulled Mr. Kohli, Mr. Wagner, and a third unidentified man from the flames, said Jeff Hilty, assistant Findlay fire chief.

Sadness grips passers-by as they watch fire ravage a two-story downtown apartment-office building in Findlay. Sadness grips passers-by as they watch fire ravage a two-story downtown apartment-office building in Findlay.
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Waiting ambulances rushed Mr. Kohli, 46, and Mr. Wagner, 76, to Blanchard Valley Regional Health Center, where the two neighbors were pronounced dead.

An air ambulance took the third victim, a white male between 30 and 35 years old, to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.

He was moved to Toledo Hospital and placed in a hyperbaric chamber, police said.

About 7 a.m., Rich Baker climbed to his nearby office, which overlooked the building, to get a better view. Mr. Baker said he was surprised by the flames' height.

"It was probably 20 feet," he said. "They were really big."

Firefighters worked on the blaze until just before 1 p.m., with three engines and two aerial trucks.

Fire officials have not determined the cause of the blaze or a damage figure.

The Hancock County auditor assessed the building as being worth $213,070.

When some of the water hit the cold air, it broke into particles and formed sleeves of ice along the power lines.

A miniature sea of rock salt, slush, and broken macadam had formed at the intersection of Main and Sandusky streets.

"It doesn't look like they'll be able to salvage the building," said Findlay Mayor Tony Iriti, while the fire defiantly sputtered.

Nick Moser, the building's owner, said any reconstruction efforts would be partially determined by his insurer, although his mind was on entirely different matters.

"I'm just extremely sad because of the tragedy it is, the loss of life," he said. "Property can be replaced."

Filled with ivory wedding gowns and a ring-bearer's tuxedo, the display window at Sorella Bridal Studio next door remained pristine.

Firefighters had already helped remove the store's merchandise and later surveyed the damage from the bridal store's rooftop.

Contact Joshua Boak at: jboak@theblade.com or 419-724-6168.



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