WARREN - Tanya Barlow was able to sum up how she felt in one sentence as she watched fire crews battle the Monday afternoon blaze that destroyed the West Market Street business she owns with her husband and another couple.
"What took 16 years of our lives to build has been ripped down in just minutes," she said.
Barlow was working alongside her husband, John, when Lifetime Muffler & Auto Repair, the shop they own with Richard and Hazel Khlem, caught fire around 3 p.m. The Barlows, an employee and one customer on the property at the time, escaped injury.
"That's the main thing. No one was hurt," said John Barlow.
It was one of three nearly simultaneous fires that kept crews busy Monday afternoon.
Fire crews called to a house fire at 142-148 E.Washington St. a short distance east of North Park Avenue moments after arriving at the muffler shop.
Fire burns through the roof and smoke bellows Monday afternoon from Lifetime Muffler & Auto Repair along West Market Street in Warren. The view of the building is taken from the Reserve Avenue S.W. bridge looking back toward West Market Street. Photo by R. Michael Semple
"That made it even worse, if it could be worse," John Barlow said. "They had to split up so some of them actually had to leave here to go over to that fire. They didn't have proper manpower."
If fire crews were not busy enough, they received another fire call around 5 p.m. to 712 Vine St. to a kitchen fire caused by a pot on the stove, Firefighter Jeff Tylicki said. When crews were there the fire was out but an ambulance was called for a person with smoke inhalation.
Tylicki said the fire department was able to cover the three fires through ''call back'' where some crews left the West Market Street fire to the Washington Street site and later the Vine Street home.
In the initial call, John Barlow said that fire started as he was working on a vehicle that turned out to have a gas leak.
"I was welding and the next thing I knew there were flames. It happened so fast," he said.
Smoke billowed from the structure as fire crews worked to control the blaze. Traffic was shut down along that section of West Market Street briefly.
Bill Salsgiver, owner of the business next to the muffler shop, said he walked outside his store for a few minutes and saw smoke moving down the street. Seconds later he heard a "boom" and turned around to see flames shooting from the muffler shop.
"Smoke was pouring out of the building and you could see the flames. It was crazy. You couldn't even see the building at times through the smoke," he said.
Across the street local convenience store owner Puphinder Singh also saw the smoke moving down West Market Street in front of his business just before he heard what sounded like an explosion.
"There was more and more smoke and it just kept getting worse," he said.
John Barlow said the building had been standing some 35 years. He and his partners bought it in July 1998.
"We built this business once. We'll build a new, bigger place. Like I said, the main thing is that nobody was hurt, everybody is still standing. We'll recover. Thank God no one was hurt, " he said.
Firefighters cleaned the scene at 6:47 p.m.
On East Washington Street, smoke could be seen coming from a top floor of the three-story four-unit apartment home shortly after 3 p.m. as one fire vehicle arrived to battle the blaze. Shortly after, backup arrived to assist.
Tylicki said the people in the home were evacuated but no one was hurt.
He said the cause of the fire is being investigated with smoke damage throughout the upper levels.
Residents in the neighborhood said they did not believe anyone was at home at the time of the fire but called fire after seeing heavy dark smoke coming from the top floor front window.
The home has multiple addresses on the outside.
Fire crews quickly had the fire out. However, reports indicate a firefighter had a minor injury following the incident.