April 24, 2014

Elyria
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Downtown fire damages apartments

Three sustain minor injuries in blaze above Boomer’s Bar

ELYRIA — Fire broke out in a third-floor apartment above Boomer’s Bar in downtown Elyria on Thursday afternoon — sending thick black smoke and flames skyward during one of the busiest times of the day.

Two men who raced upstairs to alert apartment residents — none of whom turned out to be home — suffered minor injuries, and the tenant’s two cats hadn’t been found as of Thursday evening. A nearby restaurant, Zaki’s, had to close when firefighters cut the utilities to the building.

Cesar Reutas, of Elyria, said he was drinking with friends at Boomer’s Bar when he heard an explosion and windows shattering.

“We started running upstairs to see if anyone was home,” Reutas said. “I made it as far as I could, but it was too hot, the smoke was too bad.”

Reutas burned his hand when he touched a wall. He was treated on scene by LifeCare.

Eric Nimon, of Oberlin, also was injured when he ran upstairs toward the fire. He also described hearing an explosion and injured his hand while attempting to kick and knock on apartment doors.

“We didn’t find anyone at home,” Nimon said, who also was treated at the scene for an unspecified injury. “But we wanted to make sure.”

Assistant Fire Chief Robert Dempsey said dispatchers received multiple 911 calls starting at 4:28 p.m. Thursday from callers reporting smoke and fire pouring from a third-story window of the building at 301 Broad St.

The intense heat and smoke briefly forced firefighters out of the building before they were able to gain control of the fire at 5:25 p.m.

Dempsey said he believed the fire started in apartment No. 2 on the third floor, which was the most heavily damaged unit. Other apartments received smoke and heat damage, but the fire was contained to just one unit out of the 12 in the building.

The apartment’s tenant, Rob Yunter, said he had just come home from work at Quality Metal Co. in LaGrange to find that it was his apartment that had gone up in flames. He has two cats, and he said he doesn’t think they survived.

“I just bought a new TV,” Yunter said. “That’s replaceable. I’m just glad nobody was hurt.”

Boomer’s Bar and Zaki’s were expected to remain closed Thursday evening, giving contractors time to determine it is safe to turn the utilities back on. Both businesses could be open as soon as today, Dempsey said.

Elyria Fire Lt. Chris Hayes said one firefighter sustained a minor knee injury while fighting the blaze and drove himself to the hospital to have it checked.

Dempsey said the cause of the fire still is under investigation, and the apartments will remain unoccupied during the investigation and cleanup. The Red Cross was called in to help the displaced tenants find a place to stay for at least the night.

“These guys did an outstanding job of containing the fire to only one apartment,” Dempsey said.

Contact Ben Norris at 329-7119 or bnorris@chroniclet.com.

072707fire.jpg Jason Miller / Chronicle
Elyria firefighters climb toward a burning apartment at Broad Street and East Avenue on Thursday.
ct_video1.jpg Elyria firefighters put out a fire at 301 Broad Street.