GARRETTSVILLE - A Windham Village firefighter was transported to the hospital for smoke inhalation after taking part in efforts to quell a fire that damaged 13 downtown businesses.
Garrettsville Police Department was notified of the fire at 1:15 p.m. Saturday, and firefighters were still at the scene at 9 p.m. in the area commonly known as the Buckeye block.
As firefighters fought the blaze, hundreds of people from Garrettsville and surrounding communities stood in shock, watching as the community center burned.
Michelle Rosenbaum, owner of the Game Emporium on State Street, identified several businesses that were burned, included Chic and Shabby, One Real Peach, Shaker Tree, Dann Timmons, Kim Kohli and T&B Tools.
Rosenbaum said the fire was particularly destructive because the buildings are so close together, some of which have multiple storefronts per building. He called the scene of the fire "eerie" as she made her way to work amid numerous fire and emergency response vehicles.
"My heart goes out to those people. I can't even imagine if it was my store ... I'd be a mess. I hope the people are OK because we can always recover from this kind of damage," Rosenbaum said.
Tribune Chronicle photo / Dana Sulonen
A Streetsboro firefighter surveys damage to a building in the area commonly known as the Buckeye block.
Kim Hoffman, a lifelong Garrettsville resident who graduated from Garfield High School in 1989, was dumbfounded by what she was witnessing.
"It's just hard to see this," Hoffman said. "It's just tough. Everyone knows everyone in this town. But we will come together and overcome this."
Paul Rand, another lifelong Garresttsville resident, was shaken.
"This is horrible; I grew up here. It's hard to watch something like this," Rand said.
"It's just a shame. That entire block has an incredible amount of history."
The fire department received mutual aid from 34 departments, including Charleston, Atwater, Streetsboro, Ravenna, Warren Township, Hiram, Rootstown, Southington, Mesopotamia, Newton Falls and Braceville.
Garrettsville Mayor Rick Patrick on Saturday evening said he was told that all of the businesses were fully insured.
"I've talked to some of the property owners and they want to rebuild," Patrick said.
"We're hopeful they will be able to do so."
Patrick said all of the buildings involved in the fire were severely damaged and may have to be taken down.
"There is one building that is brick that may be saved," Patrick said. "The fire chief said it may be saved."
The other buildings were built in the mid-1800s.
"Obviously they were built with old wood and once the fire started, it moved quickly," Patrick described.
In the community of about 2,300 people, a fire of this size is being described as devastating.
"We will not be able to replace the historic charm of these buildings," Patrick said. "But, hopefully, we will rebuild. We've lost part of the history of a quarter of our downtown, but we still will have the history in three-fourths of the area."
Patrick, 53, has been Garrettsville's mayor for nearly two years.
Councilman Jeff Kaiser called the fire devastating because it "... destroyed a good portion of our historic downtown."
That history, according to locals, includes a candy store that may have been located in the burned area where Clarence Crane was said to have invented Life Savers.
Kaiser agreed, however, that the community will come together and rebuild.
"I spoke to the owner of one of the major businesses and he guaranteed he would rebuild," Kaiser said. "Garrettsville is too nice of a village to turn into a parking lot."
Kaiser expressed pride that during the height of the fire, businesses, restaurants and residents were doing what they could to help.
"They were sending food, water and providing places for people to rest," Kaiser said.
"This is a close-knit community. We help each other."