NORTON, Ohio – Budget cutbacks and the failure to pass two levies are hampering firefighters’ efforts to battle blazes overnight, according to Norton Fire Chief Mike Schultz.
“Due to our staffing cuts, it took us ten minutes to get the first engine on scene and that engine only had one firefighter in it, so our operations were pretty much hampered right out of the gate,” said Schultz.
Flames ripped through the Father’s House Church on Wadsworth Road just before midnight.
Schultz said it took crews from Norton and surrounding towns nearly an hour to get water on the scene.
One firefighter was slightly injured when the roof collapsed.
The church is now completely destroyed.
Parishioners said they were inside the structure just a couple of hours before flames broke out.
“It was just devastating since we had service here tonight and it’s just a wonderful church,” said Lester Henderson.
Pastor Mike Guarnier said the church has been in the community for 16 years and believes the cause of the fire is electrical in nature since work was recently being done inside.
Fire Chief Schultz is now urging voters to pass a fire levy at the polls next month to restore services.
He said right now, there is no staffing from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m.
Schultz said, “With our staffing cuts, people need to understand that on election day, we need to pass our fire levy to get our guys back to work. Functioning at this level is gonna cost the life of a firefighter.”