Blaze destroys Salem China
Fire Marshal personnel to help seek cause of fire
SALEM — State Fire Marshal personnel were expected this morning at the scene where a massive fire destroyed the former Salem China Company building off of South Broadway and Euclid Tuesday, sending billowing black smoke seen for miles around.
“As of now, it’s under investigation and (the cause) undetermined,” Salem Fire Chief Scott Mason said late Tuesday night.
Flames shot high into the sky at the height of the fire, as the smoke hung thick over the city and beyond, involving multiple fire departments and emergency personnel from all over trying to battle the blaze and keep water flowing through the hoses. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency responded and monitored the air due to the amount of smoke.
“They found nothing hazardous in the smoke and said it’s basically like a big campfire,” Mason said, adding “it might pose an issue for somebody with asthma.”
No homes were evacuated, with police Chief J.T. Panezott saying they received phone calls from residents who were told to keep their doors and windows shut and to stay inside, but that they could leave if they were concerned. No injuries were reported
Mason reported someone called around 3:30 p.m. about smoke coming out of the building. When Salem firefighters arrived where South Broadway ends, they didn’t see the smoke there, but when they went up Euclid, they realized it was coming from the back of the building. A 2003 fire had already destroyed part of the old building and the fire Tuesday took the rest.
He said 90 percent of the building was dilapidated, with a small portion used for storage by Church Budget, owned by the Pidgeons. Brandy Pidgeon confirmed that the Pidgeon family owned the property but had no comment at the time. She and her husband Brooke own Boneshakers and the Timberlanes Complex and reportedly sent food to the fire station. Numerous businesses and individuals donated bottles of water, sent pizza and donated food to feed the firefighters, police and other first responders.
Getting close enough to the building was a challenge and storage was an issue in the building for access. Mason said firefighters manned a hose line into the building, but before long, the structure started to collapse so he ordered everybody out and they continued attacking the flames from the outside.
“We tried to save it when we first got there,” he said.
There was power to that part of the building and Ohio Edison was summoned to turn it off. Explosions could be heard, which he said were from a couple of propane tanks exploding. There was paper inside and bits of burning paper could be seen in the sky and ash was landing in the city.
Getting water to the site was another challenge as the department put out requests for other departments to bring their tankers and two separate tanker shuttles were set up, one at Euclid and South Lundy and one at Broadway and Perry.
“We knew water was going to be an issue, right off the bat,” Mason said, noting the 4-inch water lines at Broadway and Euclid. Firefighters were using the 12-inch line at Ellsworth and hitting those hydrants to get water. A local company with an excavator assisted at the scene, pushing in some walls that were going to fall down.
A fire started on the roof at Quaker City Castings on Euclid, but was extinguished by Perry Township firefighters. There were also brush fires in the woods and brush near the site.
Mason called in the whole department and offered his thanks to the other responding agencies who showed up for mutual aid, some with engines, some with tankers and some with both, and for Sebring which covered the Salem station, Responding departments include Perry Township, Winona, Hanoverton, Hanover Township, Leetonia, Green Township, Damascus, Beloit, Homeworth, North Georgetown, Franklin Township, Ellsworth, Columbiana and Canfield.
The fire attracted a lot of attention on social media and in person, as people lined up along Snyder Road, parked their vehicles and walked in the grass for a closer look with cell phones taking video and pictures. Salem resident Tim Berger said he and his son were coming home from Canfield and saw a big white puff in the sky toward Salem. The closer they got, they started seeing the smoke change from white to black. When they parked on Snyder Road and got out, he said they were hardly any flames visible at first. Before long, flames were shooting high in the sky and creating a fireball. Firefighters were continuing to work on putting out the fire late in the night. Salem Police provided traffic control, with assistance from the service department. A message had been posted on the police department Facebook page asking people to stay away from the location and the south end of the city.
Salem China first opened in 1898, manufacturing dinnerware and other items, and had been a longtime employer in the industrial area of the city, but had not operated at the site for many years.