Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
By Margie Wuebker
Crown officials hope to save building facade
New Bremen fire ruled accidental
NEW BREMEN - The cause of a fire Monday night that destroyed a historic landmark and two businesses has been ruled undetermined.
The finding was made Tuesday after an investigator and a supervisor from the Ohio Fire Marshal's Office met with New Bremen Fire Chief Bob Kuck.
Insurance adjustors have not set a dollar loss for the blaze that ravaged the vintage 1895 Boesel Opera House as well as the Fireside Pub and Que's Barber Shop located on the ground floor of the brick building.
"The fire appears to be accidental with no evidence of criminal intent," public information officer Shane Cartmill of the marshal's office told The Daily Standard this morning. "The building was locked and secured at the time of the fire."
The blaze reportedly started between the first and second floors in the bar area of the restaurant owned by Misty Kuck Callahan.
Cartmill initially labeled the building, located along West Monroe Street (state Route 274) as destroyed, but deferred on that ruling after learning Crown Equipment Corp. plans to bring in experts to assess the integrity of what remains.
"Once we get access to the building, structural engineers will make assessments," said Randy Niekamp, Crown's vice president of human resources. "Our goal is to save the facade."
Niekamp said workmen have shored up an area at the rear to the building to prevent further damage. Part of the second floor collapsed onto the restaurant's walk-in cooler, causing some floor joists to give way.
The blaze drew fire departments from New Bremen-German Township, Minster-Jackson Township, St. Marys Township, Chickasaw, St. Marys and Wapakoneta with three aerial trucks in the fleet that arrived about 6:30 p.m.
Nearly 375,000 gallons of water were used in a span of approximately two hours - making the blaze one of the largest in recent years.
Some water was pumped from the nearby Miami and Erie Canal and a water connector between New Bremen and Minster was opened.
Mayor Jeff Pape lauded the response of area fire departments during a Tuesday night village council meeting. Council member John Schwartz, a New Bremen firefighter, agreed.
"People sometime question why we spend so much money on equipment," he added. "All that equipment and the quick response probably saved a few downtown buildings."
A plywood barrier hides the front of the brick building and its brick walls - some reportedly three rows wide.
It is business as usual today at New Bremen Coffee Company & Books situated less than 5 feet from the barrier. It was closed Tuesday due to minimal smoke damage.
Keith Quellhorst, owner of Que's Barbershop, is working with the village and Crown to relocate the business he started eight years ago.
He was able to remove three barber chairs from the interior and one of them is undergoing restoration. He also retrieved antiques displayed in the front windows.
"I was able to get the chairs and the antiques from the window," he said. "I could get stuff close to the door and the fate of the other stuff is unknown.
"I always dreamed of being a barber since my teenage days," he added. "Fire can strip away all your hard work and effort in a matter of minutes."
Callahan did not return calls by press time today.
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