Fire damages Toledo Metal; Several units respond as embers fall on neighborhood

By Mike Bartell and Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writers

Page 17

A spectacular fire, fanned by winds gusting to 25 mph, shot flames and spewed heavy smoke from all four sides of the two-story Toledo Metal Spinning Co. building in the central city last night.

The flames shot at least 75 feet skyward, as ember-laden clouds of thick, black smoke billowed into the air. Several loud explosions were heard. Residents of some nearby homes were evacuated. No injuries were reported.

Firefighters were warned to beware of numerous propane gas tanks in the facility. Drums of unspecified chemicals were reported to be inside.

The blaze was reported at the firm in the 1800 block of Clinton Street, just northeast of the Detroit Avenue-Dorr Street intersection, about 11:40 p.m. The first firefighters at the scene had difficulty gaining access to the structure.

The facility, which operates only a day shift, employs about 50 people. The firm makes formed metal parts for a variety of clients, according to Eric Fankhauser, the firm’s vice president.

As the flames spread through the three-building complex, firefighters turned in a second alarm at 11:45 p.m.

They put in a special call for another pumper just before midnight.

Shortly after midnight, a special call was placed for another pumper to patrol the surrounding neighborhood and protect properties from embers flying through the air.

Three more pumpers were sent to the fire at 12:10 a.m.

A short time later, the Toledo fire department invoked its mutual-aid pact with surrounding communities.

The Oregon, Ottawa Hills, Maumee, and Washington Township fire departments were asked to provide equipment to staff Toledo stations emptied by the fire.

By 1 a.m., the building’s roof and portions of its walls had collapsed, and the fire had not yet been brought under control.

The garages of some homes along Calumet Avenue, at the rear of the structure, were damaged by falling debris and smoke.

The Toledo fire department recalled eight off-duty firefighters shortly after 1 a.m.

Fire officials early this morning said they had not determined a cause for the blaze.

Earlier in the day, Gary Briggs got more help than he wanted in tearing down an old warehouse he owned near downtown Toledo.

The vacant, wood-frame structure at 315 Bismark St. near City Park Avenue caught fire just before noon.

Except for part of the roof and the southeast corner that had been demolished, the 8,000-square-foot building pretty much burned to the ground in about an hour.

All that remained standing when the smoldering rubble was doused an hour later was a portion of the south wall. City workers tore that down about 4 p.m.

“All indications point to an accidental fire caused by the demolition of this building,” said Mike Sbrocchi, a fire department arson investigator.

Firefighters were hampered by northeast winds that gusted up to about 30 mph.

Mr. Sbrocchi said the two-alarm fire likely started after the building’s owner, Gary Briggs, aided by a family member and neighbors, was heating and removing rubber insulation from copper wire to recycle the copper.

But Mr. Briggs said no one was at the warehouse when the fire started. He said he learned about the fire in the afternoon when he came back from Perrysburg, where he had been getting license plates for his truck.

The building had been under demolition since December.

Mr. Briggs said he had complained to the city for months about neighborhood children stripping the building of wire and “anything salvageable.”

He suggested “a vagrant who tried to keep himself warm” could have started the blaze.

Mr. Briggs said the building was not insured and worth nothing.

Blade staff writer Mike Sigov contributed to this report.