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Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Fire destroys condominium

By Margie Wuebker

Celina firefighters take a break after battling a blaze that heavily damaged one. . .

Authorities continue to investigate a Thursday afternoon fire that heavily damaged a three-story condominium building at Westlake Village and sent occupants scurrying for safety.
Black smoke billowed from one of the three condominium buildings at 1145 West Bank Road and flames shot from the roof as Celina firefighters arrived on the scene shortly before 4:15 p.m.
Around 30 occupants were in the building before the fire started. No one was injured during the fire, according to Celina Fire Chief Doug Wolters.
"There is a strong possibility the fire began outside the building on the second or third floor," Wolters told the newspaper this morning. "The fire quickly got into the walls and attic."
Although the building is equipped with a sprinkler system, the attic and open breezeway-type halls did not have such protection, Wolters said. The sprinklers did not activate until flames breached the walls and ceilings.
Once on scene, Wolters quickly called for mutual aid with Coldwater, Montezuma, St. Henry and Burkettsville responding. The street outside 1145 West Bank Road quickly became a staging area for emergency vehicles and manpower. Additionally, Rockford Fire Department arrived to man the fire station and assist with emergency medical services.
Wolters said the department's aerial truck played a vital role in extinguishing the blaze. He also said north and south firewalls in the hallways prevented flames from moving northward. Another one of the three condominium buildings, located to the north of the fire-ravaged 1145 West Bank Road building, sustained some damage to the gable area.
"Fortunately no one was hurt," Wolters said. "At this point we have a lot more questions than answers, and now is not the time to hazard a guess on what caused the fire."
Representatives from the Ohio State Fire Marshal's Office arrived Thursday night for a preliminary inspection. The investigation is expected to continue today.
Glenn and Diane Twigg, who reside in unit 101 on the first floor of the building where the fire occurred, were entertaining their son and grandchildren when smoke rolled past the living room window.
"We first thought somebody was grilling, but there was too much smoke for that," Diane Twigg said. "I looked out the side door into the breezeway and saw fire and debris raining down from upstairs."
The Twiggs and their guests quickly ran from the building. She grabbed her purse on the way out.
Dorothy Peffley and Gerald Aring, occupants of Unit 210 on the second floor, also noticed black smoke billowing toward the lake. They went door to door alerting other residents and saw fire in the condomium across the hall. Aring realized later he had not stopped to get a pair of shoes or grab his car keys.
Jon Gudorf, who was working in a nearby maintenance garage, saw smoke pouring from the roof vents and also ran to alert residents. He grabbed one woman's cat attempting to run inside one of the units.
Fire department vehicles and manpower were released from the scene around 9 p.m., as were Mercer County Emergency Response volunteers who provided traffic control.
A Celina truck and several personnel remained on scene throughout the night to prevent spectators from venturing too close.
The Mercer County Chapter of the American Red Cross assisted in relocating residents. Some were sent to hotels and others to vacant units near the complex.
Occupants in some of the units will be allowed to re-enter today to remove keys, prescription medication, important papers and other belongings. Wolters said decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis depending on the extent of damage.
Diane Twigg said she and her husband are among the three condomium owners in the building at 1145 West Bank Road.
The building is currently involved in a pending lawsuit in Mercer County Common Pleas Court. The owners have defaulted on a $2.2 million loan used to finance the construction of the condominium at 1145 West Bank Road where the fire occurred.
Foreclosure action was filed Mov. 4 by Citizens National Bank of Bluffton against Westlake Development.
Other defendants named in the suit are Vernon and Susan Hoying of Celina, Bob and Jill Hoying of Dublin, Tom and Amy Hoying of Powell, Brent and Elizabeth Crawford of Dublin, and 16 unidentified occupants/renters. The civil suit does not involve the three sold units.
Representatives of the owners are in the area today assessing the situation.
- William Kincaid and Nancy Allen contributed reporting to this story.
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