October 23, 2014

Elyria
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48°F
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Shoremen lose their caboose

Fire guts Avon Lake landmark; school officials vow to repair it

AVON LAKE — A community landmark that went from a family’s backyard to the entrance of Avon Lake Memorial Stadium was nearly destroyed by fire, but school officials vow it will return.
Police believe the maroon-and-gold caboose, which has been used as a box office for events at the stadium since the mid-1980s, was intentionally set ablaze July 1.
Fire Chief Bill Morris said firefighters were called to the high school around 6 a.m. When they arrived, the caboose was fully engulfed in flames. It took more than three hours to extinguish the fire as crews had to rip apart the wood-panel siding and poked holes in the structure to ventilate heat, Morris said.
When they finished about 10 a.m., only the charred remains of the caboose’s shell stood.
“It’s in bad shape,” said Superintendent Robert Scott. “It’s still upright, but there is a lot of damage, especially on the inside.”
Scott said it is unknown when the caboose, which was donated to the school by Nora Ferrone, will be repaired. But he wants residents to know that is definitely the plan.
“That is our intention, to get the caboose back together as soon as possible,” he said. “It has become sort of a focal point for the community and the kids. When something has that much tradition, it cannot just be discarded as a lost cause.”
Police Lt. Dwayne Streator said it is obvious to investigators that the fire was arson.
“The evidence suggests someone broke the windows on the east side of the caboose, poured a flammable liquid inside and set the caboose on fire,” he said. “It doesn’t appear as if it was some kind of break-in. We don’t think anyone went into the caboose. They just set it on fire.”
Morris said flammable liquid and an incinerating device were found at the scene.
Streator said no other parts of the high school were damaged or vandalized, and there have been no incidences involving the caboose in recent history.
Scott said everyone loved the caboose, and that love will extend to its repair.
“No one is happy about this,” he said. “No one likes it when this kind of senseless destruction just happens. But a lot of people in the community are stepping up, offering labor, supplies or money to get the caboose back in shape. I don’t think coming up with the resources will be an issue when its time.”
A monetary damage amount has not been determined as of Monday. Scott said no one has really been inside the caboose since the fire as it remains sealed with police tape.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.

071007caboose.jpg Chuck Humel / Chronicle
Vandals torched the caboose at Avon Lake Memorial Stadium.
See video footage of the burned caboose