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Published: Monday, 1/12/2009

Fire guts 2 buildings in downtown Findlay

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Equipment lines North Main Street, where two downtown Findlay buildings were destroyed and a third damaged by fire. Equipment lines North Main Street, where two downtown Findlay buildings were destroyed and a third damaged by fire.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

FINDLAY - A morning fire gutted two downtown Findlay buildings yesterday and partially damaged a third, prompting nearly 40 residents to flee their apartments for the snow-covered streets, fire officials said.

There were no injuries from the blaze, which was reported at 6:17 a.m. and engulfed apartments above the Star Pawn Shop, 211 North Main St., and a neighboring duplex apartment building at 209 North Main St.

Findlay fire crews arrived to find the rear of both buildings ablaze with flames creeping up to the roof. Firefighters moved quickly to a neighboring three-story apartment complex at 213 North Main St. to prevent fire from spreading, Fire Chief Tom Lonyo said.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation last night. Investigators were trying to determine if the fire began in the 211 or 209 North Main St. building.

Chief Lonyo said 56 firefighters and eight trucks responded to the scene.

In about three hours, crews brought the blaze under control, but the structures continued to smolder through the morning as firefighters did battle amid snow flurries and temperatures in the teens.

Steve Dillon, left, Steve Hilvers, Bob Van Atta, and Howard Barnett watch Findlay firefighters extinguishing a blaze that consumed buildings at 209-211 N. Main St. Steve Dillon, left, Steve Hilvers, Bob Van Atta, and Howard Barnett watch Findlay firefighters extinguishing a blaze that consumed buildings at 209-211 N. Main St.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Crews evacuated all three buildings and residents fled into the dark chilly morning in various states of dress.

"My son ran out without shoes, no pants, no shirt, nothing - he had just shorts and a blanket over his shoulders," said Kandy Williams, 33, who lived in a third-floor apartment at 213 North Main.

Most residents sought shelter in the nearby headquarters of the American Red Cross' Hancock County chapter, 125 Fair St.

The Red Cross assisted 38 people - 20 families - and 10 of those families were to spend last night in a temporary shelter at St. Andrew's United Methodist Church, 120 West Sandusky St., said Todd James, executive directive of the county chapter.

Both the 209 and 211 North Main buildings "are a complete loss," Chief Lonyo said.

The 12-unit complex at 213 North Main sustained mostly smoke damage. It was unclear when residents could return to the building.

Joseph Hayslip, 49, who lived in the third-floor apartment with Ms. Williams, recalled peering out their rear window as firefighters arrived.

"The duplex was engulfed in flames and the top of the pawn shop was too," he said.

Russell Meer, 52, lived on the second floor of 213 North Main in an apartment beside the pawn shop building.

"We awoke because the smoke was coming through the walls. It took us awhile to figure out it wasn't our building that was on fire," Mr. Meer said. "So we got the kids out and then we got the dogs out."

Steve Phister said he and his wife, Barbara Phister, awoke when a firefighter came to the door of their first-floor apartment in 213 North Main. Mrs. Phister, who uses a wheelchair, fled in the rush, wearing just a nightgown and coat.

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6065.



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