Coming Together to Rebuild Garrettsville After Fire

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GARRETTSVILLE, Ohio -- The State Fire Marshal's Office said the fire that destroyed much of the village's historic downtown on Saturday was not caused by a criminal act.

It appeared to have started on the roof of the Irwin Hardware building where roof repair and re-tarring was taking place.

"They were up there at the time of the fire," said Jeff Koehn, an arson investigator with the state Fire Marshal's Office. "They were seen there shortly before the fire, and from what the people we talked to saw, they were in the back of the building shortly after the fire and one of them made the 911 call."

Police will not yet release the 911 calls, despite a public record's request. The Portage County Prosecutor's Office declined to return calls to discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, Koehn said they need to talk to more witnesses and go through more of the debris before they can determine exactly what happened.

Officials added that the age of the historic buildings may have helped the blaze spread like wildfire.

"The building itself was about 100 years old," Koehn said. "There were no fire stops in the building it spread one business to another through open wall spaces and the fire went through the third story roof, spreading very quickly."

Congressman Dave Joyce said he has talked to local officials and will work with them to help with rebuilding efforts.

The fire broke out Saturday afternoon and destroyed 13 businesses in four buildings.

Among them was a used furniture shop, a craft shop, a clock repair business, a podiatrist and two attorney’s offices.

The community, while dealing with the loss, has jumped into action, organizing fundraising efforts to rebuild.

Mayor Rick Patrick sent his encouragement through Facebook.

An organizational meeting for Rebuilt Garrettsville was held Monday night at Garfield High School.

The purpose was to organize volunteer efforts.

On Sunday, Fox 8 News spoke to residents who went out not only to see the damage, but to see how they could help.

“This is small town America at its best," said Michelle Zivoder, who not only serves on the Chamber of Commerce, but owns Villager Printing.

Groups and organizations from all over Northeast Ohio are pulling together to help rebuild the downtown.

Zivoder wasted no time putting together the #GARRETTSVILLESTRONG logo, which will soon be put on tee shirts to raise money for the recovery.

The shirts haven't even gone to the printer yet, and already she is swamped with orders.

“We have people who’ve contacted us from Texas, from Florida, who grew up here. And they’re ordering shirts and asking what they can do," Zivoder said.

Much of that effort is aimed at helping the Nelson Garrettsville Community Cupboard—one of the 13 businesses reduced to ashes.

Nearly 250 area families rely on that food bank.

That's why businesses like the Time Out Sports Bar and Grille took matters into their own hands, collecting donations of money and food and even offering up their own space for storage.

“It’s been such an outpouring that (the customers) wanted to do something, get something started, and it has just taken on a life of its own," said the bar owner, Scott Ballentine.

The Garrettsville Cub Scouts did their part for the pantry, manning stations at two local grocery stores.

“We’re just helping to fill up whatever we can so that they can continue to serve the people that they serve,” said Cub Master Dave Shaefer.

The Garrettsville Area Chamber of Commerce has created a webpage where links to several efforts have been collected.

A Garrettsville Facebook page has also been created: Rebuild Garrettsville, where anyone is welcome to offer their volunteer services or ideas.

For extended coverage on this story, click here.

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