GARRETTSVILLE, Ohio (WKBN) — A quarter of downtown Garrettsville is now nothing but rubble.
The Sheriff’s office is standing guard until the cleanup process can begin.
Business owners who watched their livelihood burn to the ground in mere hours are now speaking out about just what happened moments before tragedy struck.
Stephanie Dietelbach spent the first part of her Saturday like many others: Inside her antique shop along Center Street in Garrettsville.
“My mom and I were inside. I was getting ready to go to the laundry mat and a gentleman motioned for us to come outside,” said Dietelbach.
At that moment, her normal Saturday became anything but. She said the rest of it seemed like a bad dream.
“Peaked my head outside, saw the smoke from the third story window, grabbed my computer and my purse and by that time there was smoke coming down the ceiling,” said Dietelbach.
Officials said they’re not sure how many people the man saved by going door to door, telling folks to get out, but everyone is thankful he did.
Now, most of those doors he went to are no longer standing.
Dietelbach said she was unfortunately unable to retrieve anything from her business.
“It’s a total loss. I could not salvage anything, nothing. I have my key to the front door, that’s what I have left,” said Dietelbach.
Sadly, that’s all many businesses are left with.
Jennifer Click’s parents started the business she owns 40 years ago.
“What is left is our back door to our shop is all we have left from what I can see, that’s it,” said Click.
Many in Garrettsville spent the day drying tears, and finding a strength they didn’t know they had.
“I’m trying to be strong. I want to be strong for Garrettsville, but it really hits here, and we’re going to get through this,” said mayor Rick Patrick.
From the beginning, the people of this small town showed their dedication. There was no 911 call about the fire. Someone literally ran into the police department with the news. Garrettsville’s Fire Chief, Jeff Kaiser, said residents played several large roles during Saturday’s fire.
“We did use civilians and our honorary firemen to help with the fire,” said Kaiser.
None of them are ready to throw in the towel.
“Hopefully rebuild, you know this isn’t going to get us down, and hopefully another 40 years,” said Click.
Very lucky. God is watching over us, that’s for sure,” added Dietelbach.
New details have after the as mayor and fire chief spoke at a press conference on Sunday.
The fire chief said the flames were so bad that the crews main concern was simply making sure everyone was out and trying to keep the flames from spreading.
34 fire departments helped fight the fire. Two firefighters were hurt, they both suffered smoke inhalation, but have since recovered.
Currently, they’re still not sure why or how it started. That investigation will continue Monday with the state fire marshal’s office and ATF.
Kaiser said the age of the building that burned likely played a role. It was built in 1850.
“The multiple times it was remodeled, double roofs, triple roofs, multiple ceiling levels also played a role in it,” explained Kaiser.
He added that there was only one fire wall and that was in the one block building that was still standing. He also said no rehab work was being done at the time of the fire. And while there have been rumors of it starting with roof work, that is pure speculation at this point.
All in all, 13 businesses were destroyed in this fire.
Among them: A non-profit that helps out needy families in the area. The Nelson Garrettsville Community Cupboard serves more than 100 families every month.
They put out 800 to 1,000 items of food every week. Now, the mayor said they’re starting over from scratch.
“Obviously no food. It’s all gone. A lot of people benefit from the food shelf,” said Patrick.
Patrick said the pantry has already had several offers of places where it can relocate. Several people have been calling wondering how to make a donation.
He said to contact Middlefield Bank and donate money to an account the pantry has set up there.