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DAMASCUS FIRE Witmer's is urged to rebuild



Published: Thu, July 26, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The feed mill was a gathering place for farmers.

By NANCY TULLIS

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

DAMASCUS -- Loyal customers of Witmer's Feed and Grain Inc. have been encouraging and supportive of the company's plans to rebuild.

"It's been nothing but positive feedback," said Phyllis Porter, office manager of Witmer's main mill in Columbiana.

"We are definitely rebuilding," she said. "We hope to start any day.

"It won't be what it was," she said. "It will be a much more modern facility. Eventually, everything has to change and now it's our turn."

A June 17 fire destroyed Witmer's building on state Route 534 in Damascus, about two miles north of the Columbiana County line.

Landmark: The feed mill was a local landmark and a gathering place for area farmers for many years.

Damascus Fire Chief John Bricker recalled many hours spent at the mill as a boy. His family owns Bricker Farms in Goshen Township, just a few miles from the mill.

"It was just always there," he said.

Porter said the company's plant in Columbiana is servicing Damascus customers.

Firefighters were able to save the fertilizer plant and grain storage facilities, both of which have remained operational.

Porter said customers can still buy mixed livestock feeds and pet foods at the Damascus site. Customers call either location to place orders, she said.

Feed is mixed at the Columbiana mill and delivered to Damascus each Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Porter said the company plans to construct a building that will house offices and a feed storage area. It may also include a feed grinding operation.

Fire: Bricker, who estimated the loss at $200,000, has said the cause of the fire may never be known because the building was too unstable for firefighters to safely do a thorough investigation.

The building was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. It took about an hour to bring the blaze under control, Bricker said.

About 100 firefighters from 11 area departments were at the scene nearly eight hours.




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