By BOB JACKSON
COLUMBIANA -- Vince Vivo could barely shake his head as he stood gaping at the charred remains of a building he owns just off the city's central square.
"I don't know what happened," said Vivo, who said he co-owns the building with his brother Nick; they don't own the business that it contained.
Fire destroyed the building that housed Dollar Island, Etc., 26 S. Main St., Sunday evening. Fire Chief Rick Garrity termed the building a total loss but said it was too soon to assign an estimated dollar value. Vivo said the building is insured. The store was closed when the fire broke out.
Garrity said at least two adjoining businesses -- Vivian's Antiques to the north and Ryan's News to the south -- suffered smoke damage. No injuries were reported.
"We had to take down the door of the antiques store," Garrity said. "We didn't want to do that, obviously, but with no keys available, we had to do what we had to do."
He said firefighters received a call about 6 p.m. Sunday that smoke had been spotted inside the building, located only about a block west of the fire department. Before long, the smoke turned into a fire that required the help of several neighboring fire departments to control. Trucks and personnel came from Leetonia, Springfield Township, Beaver Township and New Waterford's fire departments.
What caused worry
Firefighters were concerned about the potential for an explosion because of helium tanks inside the store. The tanks are used for filling balloons. However, there was no explosion, and Garrity said no firefighters were hurt.
Ericka Thompson, who lives about a block east of the store, said she heard the commotion and walked over to find out what was going on. When she arrived, light smoke was visible inside the store and it appeared that the fire and its damage would be minimal.
"Then it just looked like a [window] blind of flames came down across the window," she said, pointing to the one-story building's storefront window. "It just seemed like it was happening in slow motion."
Thompson said the store had opened only some two months ago, relocating to the city from Boardman. She said the fire not only torched the city's downtown landscape, but also cut into its heart.
"This is a small town," Thompson said. "We all hurt when something like this happens."
Garrity said he was not sure where or how the fire started, but early indications did not appear to be suspicious. He said the blustery weather didn't hamper firefighting efforts, though, he said, the city's water supply was heavily strained.
"If it had gotten much further along, we would have had to set up a water shuttle," he said.
The owner of the store could not be reached to comment. Firefighters didn't know the owner's name.
Onlookers said it's been about 25 years since Columbiana suffered a major fire in its downtown district. The last one was just less than one block south of Sunday's fire. It destroyed what then housed the AAA offices.