July 28, 2014

Elyria
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Fire investigators seeking origin of Wellington blaze


It probably wasn`t arson, say officials

WELLINGTON – Local and state fire officials began searching for clues in the smoldering rubble of a downtown warehouse Tuesday, a day after the two-story brick structure was leveled by fire.

BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE
Fire investigators sort through the rubble left from Monday’s blaze.

Assistant Wellington Fire Chief Mike Wetherbee said the investigation is far from over and could take more than a week before the blaze`s cause is determined.

“We`ve just been able to get in there and look around,” he said. “At this point, we`re still looking for clues and interviewing employees.”

The 20,000-square-foot building was built in 1895 and served as a storage facility for Hemlock Cottage Furniture and housed a small packaging company, Will-Do Packaging.

Wellington fire Lt. Bill Brown said the old wooden-beam construction of the building contributed to the ferocity of the blaze which started about 1 p.m. on Monday.

Brown said investigators will focus on the common area between the busin esses.

While arson hasn`t been ruled out, Wetherbee said it doesn`t appear to be likely.

There were five employees working inside the packaging portion of the warehouse and possibly two working in the furniture storage section when the fire began.

Everyone was outside when fire crews arrived, and no one was hurt.

Brown was unsure of the amount of overall damage caused by the blaze, but said Hemlock Cottage Furniture had an insurance policy in excess of $250,000 that covered the contents of the products it stored inside the facility.

The building was worth about $150,000, according to the county auditor`s Web site, and was up to code, Brown said.

Blair Hodgson, owner of the warehouse and Hemlock Cottage Furniture, said Monday that he suspected the fire may have started from an electrical problem within the building. He couldn`t be reached for comment Tuesday.

The fire comes just three months after another fire caused major damage to the Wager/POV Products store on Depot Street, which is just two blocks from the warehouse that burned Monday. The cause of that fire has not been determined.

Contact Stephen Szucs at 336-4016 or online sszucs@chroniclet.com.