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DAMASCUS Chief: Fire cause not found



Published: Tue, June 19, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The fertilizer plant and grain facility are operating, a Witmer's manager said.

By NANCY TULLIS

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

DAMASCUS -- Damascus Fire Chief John Bricker said the cause of Sunday's fire at Witmer's Feed and Grain here may never be determined.

The fire destroyed the main building of Witmer's facility along state Route 534 about two miles north of the Columbiana County line. The building housed an office, feed-mixing facility and feed storage.

Bricker and several firefighters were at the fire scene late Monday morning. They were called out about 6 a.m. when the rubble rekindled.

The Damascus mill is owned by Witmer Feed and Grain Inc. of Columbiana.

Phyllis Porter, office manager of the Columbiana mill, said the fertilizer plant and grain facility at Damascus are still operational. She said the company will likely rebuild at the Damascus site, but officials have not yet discussed the possibilities.

Bricker said he does not believe the fire was deliberately set. He did not have a loss estimate.

Damascus firefighters were first called to the scene about 12:15 a.m. Sunday. They returned to the station about 7 a.m., he said.

Who fought fire: Bricker said the fire was out of control when the first units arrived and Bricker began calling other departments for assistance.

Beloit, Sebring, Homeworth, North Georgetown, Winona, and Berlin, Ellsworth, Green, Beaver and Perry township departments responded, and Salem firefighters were on stand-by, he said.

"When you know you're dealing with a loss, you just want to protect the surrounding property and get the fire out without anyone getting hurt," he said.

How bad it was: Bricker said a Green Township firefighter was treated at Salem Community Hospital for heat exhaustion. He said a Beloit firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion at the scene and medics also treated a Damascus firefighter who received minor scrapes and bruises after a portion of a wall fell on him.

"It took us about an hour to go from total chaos to minor chaos," Bricker said. "The fire was so intense, we almost lost one of our trucks. It got pretty hot, and we had a hose on it and the surrounding buildings. Anyone who wasn't on a hose was hauling water."

He estimated firefighters pumped about 150,000 gallons of water from area lakes. About 100 firefighters used 25 trucks and other fire apparatus.




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