Investigators Search for Answers in Garrettsville Fire


Garrettsville fire aftermath on 3/23/14

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GARRETTSVILLE, Ohio -- The search for answers begins as investigators look into what caused the fire that destroyed nearly a third of the historic businesses and buildings in downtown Garrettsville.

Officials said it's believed to be the worst fire in Garrettsville history.

The raging fire tore through historic Downtown Garrettsville Saturday afternoon. At 1:15 pm, a passerby ran into the police station to say that Main Street was on fire.

Stephanie Dietelbach, owner of One Real Peach, said someone came to her door telling her to get out.

"Grabbed my things, and by that time smoke had started to come down through the ceiling.  It was just that quick, within five minutes,” Dietelbach said.

Firefighters were back on Main Street Sunday dousing hot spots.

Garrettsville Fire Chief David Friess said many of the structures date back to 1850, and there were almost no fire walls, making this a fast-spreading and challenging fire to battle.

"Age of structure played a role in it. The multiple times it was remodeled, double roofs, triple roofs, multiple ceiling levels also played a role in it,” Friess added.

Garrettsville firefighters had the mutual aid of more than 100 firefighters from 34 neighboring departments. Friess said it took more than seven hours to bring the blaze under control.

The historic Buckeye Building was one of four structures that were reduced to rubble.

Thirteen businesses were lost in the fire, including a used-furniture shop, a craft shop, a clock repair business, a food pantry, a podiatrist and two attorney's offices.

They also included the Miller Lawn and Garden Store, which has been in Jennifer Click’s family for 40 years.

“I just was completely drained, everybody’s livelihoods. When they go to go to work on Monday, there's nothing to go to," Click said.

Since it was Saturday afternoon, most of the businesses were open, and it's estimated that about 50 people were inside at the time of the fire, including the mayor's wife who was shopping.

“When my wife called me, I had a real hard time with it," Garrettsville Mayor Rick Patrick said. "We were very fortunate that everyone got out OK. I mean, it could have been a lot worse than it really is."

Two firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation.

State and federal fire investigators are expected back on scene Monday to determine the cause of the massive fire.

And, while the loss is great, their spirit is strong. There is already talk of rebuilding.

"We're not giving up, none of us.  We have a great community,” Dietelbach said.

Patrick echoed the sentiment.

“We're going to get through this," he said. "Garrettsville is strong, and we will remain strong."

A fund has been started to help Garrettsville get back on its feet. CLICK for more.

Keep it to for the latest updates and CLICK HERE for more.

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