Blaze Destroys Ohio Industrial Building

May 20, 2013
Willoughby Fire Chief Al Zwegat said his firefighters went into defensive mode to prevent the fire from spreading.

May 19--A massive fire burned Saturday night at a vacant industrial site at 3911 Ben Hur Ave. in Willoughby, shooting flames several stories high into the air while causing thick black smoke to be visible to a large section of Vine Street and the city's western side.

Willoughby Fire Chief Al Zwegat said his department received multiple 911 calls at 9:42 p.m. and when crews arrived on scene four minutes later, about 60 percent of the original building on the DeMilta Salvage property was engulfed in flames.

That prompted firefighters to immediately go into defensive mode to try to prevent the blaze from spreading to nearby properties, he said.

Fire departments from across Lake County were called to assist at the scene. Crews came from as far away as from the Perry Joint Fire District because the blaze required intense manpower to help lay down fire hoses, Zwegat said.

The chief said at one time the building used to be part of Pyromatics, a manufacturing firm.

"It's vacant at this time for approximately 5 to 10 years, closer to 10 years," the chief said.

Zwegat said about 80 percent of the building had burned to the ground as of about 11 p.m. and fire crews expected to be on scene throughout the night and through most of the day Sunday.

"Basically the goal was to keep the fire from spreading from this property to other properties," the chief said.

Zwegat said there were no civilian or firefighter injuries and the blaze remained under investigation Saturday night.

Authorities shut down nearby railroad tracks because of their proximity to the fire and a large portion of Vine Street was also shut down near Ben Hur Ave. to keep people and motorists safe.

Zwegat said several electrical transformers near the scene exploded, but there were no hazardous materials inside the burned building.

"I'm not sure if it affected power to any of the affected area, I haven't had a chance to ascertain if there were any issues," the chief said.

The building was mostly vacant, the chief said, but a landscaper had stored some items inside the building.

Because of the magnitude of the blaze, firefighters could not find the natural gas lines so Dominion was called to the scene to assist, Zwegat said.

Firefighters also worked to protect a part of a building that caught fire on one side, but was still relatively intact, he said. Some nearby diesel tanks were also unharmed by the fire.

The chief said that it was too early to determine a dollar value loss on the property.

Copyright 2013 - The News-Herald, Willoughby, Ohio

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