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FOSTORIA - The mayor of Fostoria is looking to Wauseon for advice about how to minimize the damage done to the downtown business district by a fire Wednesday that burned out of control for hours in three adjoining buildings.
Several people were evacuated from the stores and residences above them when the fire was reported. No one was hurt by the blaze that eventually consumed a half-block.
Gutted businesses included Nutrition and Fitness by Brett, Kaminsky Jewelers, Lincoln Mortgage Corp., and Fired Up Ceramics.
"I might as well not reinvent the wheel," Mayor John Davoli said. "I know they've done a great job in Wauseon and I'd like to get some pointers from them."
Mayor Davoli was referring to an arson fire in April, 2007, that destroyed a half-block that housed several businesses in downtown Wauseon.
"This is a step backward," Mayor Davoli said yesterday, standing across the street from the charred, two to three-story business/residential buildings that have stood at the northeast corner of South Main and Tiffin streets for more than a century. Of the three structures, the one closest to the intersection was still smoking.
"We'll just continue to do the best we can to get [the businesses] up and running as soon as possible," the mayor said. "We're trying to find places downtown to relocate them and find the backup money."
He said he was certain one of the shops had no insurance.
The shop - Fired Up Ceramics at 1118 South Main St. - is co-owned by Nannette Schroder, 35, one of the extended family of seven left homeless after the blaze damaged their residence over the first-floor shop, Ms. Schroder said.
"I am OK now," she said yesterday. "But last night, I cried for hours and hours. But when I saw my [two] kids sleeping curled up on the couch at my mom's house, I felt so blessed."
That was after Ms. Schroder learned about the fire from a phone call she received at a Findlay automotive parts production plant where she works.
She rushed back to Fostoria, where she found her two children, Morgan Drouillard, 3, and Richard John Drouillard III, 5, safe.
Yesterday, she was recalling her story in the lobby of the American Red Cross office - just across the street from the fire scene - where she waited for her nephew, Zach Lamberjack, and his girlfriend, Megan Allsup, both 18, to stop by. Both lived above the businesses before the fire forced them to stay with relatives in Fostoria, she said.
Ms. Allsup said she was home alone when the fire started.
She smelled smoke, "then I saw that the storage room was filled with smoke. I looked out of the window, saw police downstairs, and got out."
Assisted by police and Mr. Lamberjack, who was across the street, she managed to get the family's two dogs out, but the cat was still missing yesterday, she said.
It was still unclear yesterday how and where the fire started.
The damage was "at least" hundreds of thousands of dollars, the mayor said after he met with fire officials.
Most likely, at least one of the three buildings - the one at the corner - is going to be demolished, he said.
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