November 26, 2014

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Old buildings may have speeded spread of fire that gutted downtown Garrettsville

Severely damaged buildings smolder as firefighters from several area fire departments work to bring a fire at the intersections of High and Water streets in downtown Garrettsville under control on Saturday. (AP Photo/Akron Beacon Journal, Ed Suba Jr.)

Severely damaged buildings smolder as firefighters from several area fire departments work to bring a fire at the intersections of High and Water streets in downtown Garrettsville under control on Saturday. (AP Photo/Akron Beacon Journal, Ed Suba Jr.)

GARRETTSVILLE, Ohio (AP) — The age of several buildings leveled by a fire in the downtown area of a northeastern Ohio village may have contributed to the fast spread of the fire, the village’s fire chief said Sunday.

Chief Jeff Kaiser of Garrettsville’s fire department said two firefighters suffered smoke inhalation, but weren’t seriously injured in the blaze that swept through a historic downtown block on Saturday afternoon, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported.

Police said the first call about the blaze came in shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday, saying, “Main Street is on fire,” the Akron Beacon Journal reported. More than 30 fire departments were dispatched to the town of about 2,200 residents.

A total of 13 businesses in four buildings were affected by the fire. Three of the four buildings were made of wood and were built in the 1800s, before modern fire codes, Kaiser said Sunday.

The Portage county fire investigation unit and state fire marshal’s office are investigating to determine the cause of the blaze.

A barbershop, several novelty shops and a food pantry were among the businesses lost, according to Mayor Rick Patrick, who said there were people in most of the businesses when the fire broke out.

“We’re very fortunate everyone got out OK,” Patrick said.

Kaiser said it could be several weeks before authorities can determine the dollar amount of the damage.

Kim DelTorto, owner of the Chic & Shabby Resale Shop that was destroyed, said four people were in her store when someone ran inside to say the block was on fire.

She said she spent a couple of years restoring the store built in the 1800s and loved that it had its original tin ceiling.

“I keep thinking about that ceiling,” DelTorto told the Beacon Journal. “It’s gone.”

Local high school math teacher Dave Opfer, said he knew several of the business owners affected by the fire.

“Everybody kind of knows everybody here,” he said. “We’ll all pull together and rebuild.”

Messages from The Associated Press seeking additional comment from police and fire officials on Sunday weren’t immediately returned.