Garrettsville begins healing after fire

Published:

FROM STAFF REPORTS

Garrettsville -- Business owners affected by a fire that destroyed all but one building of a historic block in Garrettsville on March 22 met March 28 with the village's mayor and a representative of the governor's office.

Mayor Rick Patrick hosted the meeting at Village Hall. Gov. John Kasich sent a representative, and Matthew Brehl from the Ohio Department of Insurance answered questions as business owners sort out their insurance claims.

Brehl said most insurance companies are helpful in a time of great loss, but that his department stands ready to help the business owners if there is a problem.

Business owners also were given updates on other efforts on their behalf. Patrick told the group fundraising efforts were going well and the intention of the Garrettsville Area Chamber of Commerce is to use the money directly for their benefit. He said the Chamber should have a policy this week about how the money will be distributed.

Meanwhile, more than 400 people attended a March 24 meeting to start planning recovery efforts. The village of about 2,300 has identified with the phrase "Garrettsville Strong."

Donations can be made through Garrettsville Chamber at www.garrettsvillearea.com.

Chief Dave Friess of the Garrettsville-Freedom-Nelson Fire District said fire and insurance company investigators still are working on determining the losses, but said they will be significant.

"My guesstimate ... is $5 million," he said, based on the value of the buildings and their contents

Thirteen businesses were destroyed or displaced in the fire, which started on Main Street just after 1 p.m. March 22 and eventually resulted in a response from 34 fire departments from four counties. Two firefighters suffered smoke inhalation and were successfully treated and are recovering, but no bystanders were injured.

ONE-QUARTER of the village's historic downtown, including the nearly 160-year-old Buckeye Building, was destroyed as hundreds of spectators watched. The age of the buildings and their construction contributed to the speed with which the fire spread, Friess said.

An outpouring of support from across Northeast Ohio has helped the nonprofit Nelson-Garrettsville Community Cupboard rise like a phoenix from the ashes of destruction, said its director Michele Elias.

The pantry has been receiving donations en masse from a united community since its downtown building was leveled.

On March 27, the pantry began assisting clients and organizing donations at a temporary site in a former toy store at Routes 88 and 305. It was donated by Middlefield Banking Co.

The pantry also has a second storage location on Hayden Street in Hiram, where 15 pallets of cleaning supplies were donated by a Streetsboro company, said Joe Leonard, co-founder of the pantry.

Elias said the nonprofit is committed to moving back into the same block once rebuilt and restored.

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