YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — The Idora Park fire started around 10:30 a.m. on Thursday April 26th, 1984. A spark from a welder’s torch would eventually cause two and a half million dollars in damage and cripple the ride that made Idora famous.
“We lost the main attraction, the wildcat,” said then-Idora Park Owner Pat Duffy thirty years ago of the wildcat, a roller coaster at the park. “Whether it can be rebuilt, the parts that burned, I don’t know. That’s the best part of the ride and it’s laying on the ground.”
“Somehow the flames and the smoke, the twisted iron and wood seemed out of place against the blue skies,” 33 News Daybreak anchor Len Rome said.
Rome was there that day — reporting on how firefighters saved the carousel — and how the ladder truck saved the park.
“If they don’t send the ladder truck we’re in trouble here, in my opinion, but i believe it,” said Youngstown Fire Department Battalion Chief Marty Conti, who was on the scene. He knew what he was getting into.
“Oh absolutely,” Conti said. “You get a major fire at that park, I mean it’s so big and spread out.”
To explain how the fire was fought — Conti drew a diagram. The first pumper on the scene almost had it.
“A lot of the fire was out. But he ran out of water,” Conti said.
“You know it was 15 minutes, it takes 10-15 minutes to do that. You just can’t help it,” Conti said.
By the time the water was running, the mix of dry timber and strong winds had created an inferno. The park office, the Nickelodeon arcade, the Lost River Ride and the Wildcat were a blaze.
Idora Park is now gone — but the memories were saved by Jim and Toni Amey. They’ve constructed a building next to their house on South Turner Road in Canfield — filled with Idora memorabilia. They appeared Tuesday on 33 News at 5:30.
30 years later, a backstop is the lone reminder that an amusement park was ever here. Idora Park is now just trees and brush.
It’s owned by Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church. But Jim London — President of the Idora Neighborhood Association — wants the land divided three ways — between the church, Mill Creek Park, and the neighborhood.
“We could have activities here: car shows, swap meets, outdoor concerts, there is so much, a fair once a year,” London said.
But that’s the future — and even then it’s just maybe. Today we remember the fire — and the men who fought it.
“And i’ll tell you what. Those men were just heroic that day, they just did a terriffic job,” Conti said.