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Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Fire destroys landmark

By Daily Standard Staff

New Bremen residents are silhouetted as smoke and flames billow from the West Mo. . .

NEW BREMEN - Fire destroyed a historic landmark and two businesses along West Monroe Street (state Route 274) on Monday night.
The Fireside Pub and Q's Barbershop, housed at street level in the 1895 Boesel Opera House building, were filled with smoke when firefighters got a call about 6:30 p.m. No one was injured. Both businesses were closed when the fire began.
Firefighters remained on the scene this morning.
New Bremen-German Township Assistant Fire Chief Ron Wente said flames quickly broke through the roof Monday night. Some of the upper floor eventually collapsed.
Three aerial trucks were used to keep flames from breeching nearby business buildings. Neighboring New Bremen Coffee Co. and Books sustained smoke damage.
Wente indicated the size and age of the large brick building complicated the firefighting process.
Other fire departments at the scene were Minster-Jackson Township, St. Marys Township, Chickasaw, St. Marys and Wapakoneta.
"We got the fire contained around 2 a.m. and began sending assisting departments home at that time," New Bremen Fire Chief Bob Kuck said from the scene this morning.
Also outside the building this morning were Shelly Finke and Carla Topp, co-owners of New Bremen Coffee Co. and Books.
"The fireman said it was safe for us to go in," Finke said. "But the smoke smell is really bad."
Finke and Topp closed their shop a week ago to lay a new floor and repaint. They had re-opened Monday.
"It's just sickening," Topp said of the fire. "You never think it'll happen to you until it happens. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the guys next door. We were really lucky to be spared."
Officials estimated nearly half the town turned out to watch the blaze. Fireside owner Misty Callahan and barbershop owner Keith Quellhorst also rushed to the scene. Quellhorst attempted to get inside to save old barbering tools and other antiques but was driven back by heavy smoke, village administrator Wayne York said.
Many firefighters remained on the scene throughout the night, with most of Monroe Street opened to traffic early this morning.
Kuck met with a representative of the Ohio Fire Marshal's Office this morning to begin an investigation into the cause of the blaze and a loss figure. Wente said firefighters found nothing suspicious.
"The fire marshal's here and conducting interviews now," Kuck said this morning. "He's here to get that all sorted out."
Firefighters drew water from the nearby Miami and Erie Canal and village water towers.
"I want to extend my extreme appreciation to the village of Minster for allowing us to open the water connection between the two communities - only the second time in 10 years," York said today. "We were drawing the towers down faster than we could replenish the water supply."
Delores Stienecker, a member of the New Bremen Historic Association, was among the spectators Monday night. She watched from a bridge at the lockkeeper's house, lamenting that the blaze consumed a part of history.
The former Opera House was once the scene of high school graduations, class plays and teen dances. The New Bremen American Legion once occupied the upper floor before moving to the "White Mountain" facility north of town. The second-floor of the building had not been used in recent years.
"I remember attending a Halloween party there in the 1960s," Stienecker said. "A lot of us went out on the fire escape to watch bales of paper and material at Harris Junkyard burn. Now another piece of history is gone."
The building is owned by Crown Equipment Corporation of New Bremen.
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