Former school catches fire

Building owned by county Land Bank

NILES — Resident Jan Beeler said when she looked out the back window of her South Main Street home around 2:30 a.m. Monday, she could see the flashing lights of fire trucks and smoke coming from the former Garfield School building on West Third Street.

“I saw some flashing outside. It was the old cafeteria and gymnasium section of the building on fire,” said Beeler, who with a few other neighbors went outside and watched Niles fire crews battle the blaze.

“I think a lot of the neighborhood was still asleep,” she said.

The former elementary school, 101 W. Third St., is no longer used by Niles City Schools. It is owned by the Trumbull County Land Bank.

The fire caused about $10,000 in damage, said Niles fire Chief David Danielson. The fire damage was contained to the east side of the building, but it has smoke damage throughout. The fire is being investigated as suspicious, he said.

Boxes of paper left in the gym by the building’s former owners, who Danielson said he believes were going to use the old school for offices, caught fire. Danielson said he believes someone set one of the piles on fire.

Trumbull County 911 received calls from neighborhood residents reporting flames and smoke coming from the vacant building just before 2 a.m. Fire crews were at the building until almost 6 a.m.

Matt Martin, executive director of Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, which operates the land bank, said someone was being sent to board up the building.

“I had a text about the fire and was thinking the land bank does have a school property in Niles. I am going to get someone over there and see what happened and get it boarded up,” he said.

He said while there is grant money is available for demolishing residential structures, there is “zero money” for demolishing commercial structures.

Niles police were called to the building after 1 p.m. Monday for a report of children playing at the site, but none were there when police arrived.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com