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Published: Wednesday, 1/9/2013

Officials search for clues to cause of blaze in Tiffin

Firefighters from 12 departments battled the blaze in the building that housed the teen center, now being torn down in Tiffin. Firefighters from 12 departments battled the blaze in the building that housed the teen center, now being torn down in Tiffin.

TIFFIN - Construction crews used bulldozers yesterday to begin tearing down what was left of a fire-damaged three-story downtown building that once housed a popular teen center.

Officials have determined that the Jan. 9 fire started in the kitchen area of the teen center, which was on the building's first floor. But the cause of the fire is unknown.

“We haven't found any signs of arson, but we haven't worked out exactly what caused the blaze yet,” fire Chief William Ennis said. “We anticipate that we won't know for quite a while. The insurance company has to test the appliance that was retrieved from the wreckage.”

The Seneca County-owned building erupted in flames about noon. Firefighters from 12 departments battled the blaze through the evening. Although the structure was a loss, firefighters were able to save the neighboring buildings.

Neighboring businesses sustained only serious smoke and water damage. But the teen center, which had been at that site for about five years, must start all over, board member Lee Martin said.

Mr. Martin said the seven-member board of directors has met several times since the fire to discuss alternative locations to continue operations. The board hopes to make a decision tomorrow.

“The problem is to find enough space downtown to hold the center,” he said. “All these kids really need is a place to come in out of the weather and a boom box to listen to music.”

The center offered teens from the local middle school and junior high a place to go after school. There, computers, video games, pool tables, Ping Pong tables, and a stereo kept teens busy.

All the equipment, mostly donated, was lost in the fire, but Mr. Martin hopes that public generosity will continue.

“I'd say about 95 percent of our stuff was donated,” he said. “But the fire was a real disaster; we lost everything.”

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