Published Jan. 30, 2001 in The Ledger Independent
GEORGETOWN, Ohio — An early morning fire swept through an entire city block in downtown Georgetown, Monday, destroying several buildings.
The blaze was reported just after 3 a.m. The buildings destroyed by the blaze were part of Historic Georgetown and date back to the 1800s. Officials believe the fire originated in a building housing the city’s newspaper.
“Flames were shooting from the front and roof of the News Democrat building, when our first truck arrived,” said Georgetown Fire Chief Joe Brookbank. “We have every indication the fire started there.”
Robert Lawless, investigator with the State Fire Marshal’s Office, agreed with Brookbank’s preliminary suspicion concerning the fire’s origin.
“We’re just getting started in out investigation. No official determination has been able to be made at this time,” said Lawless. “An ax was found near the building. It was taken into evidence by law enforcement officials. Interviews will be held to determine where it came from.”
According to Lawless, if someone did get into the building to start the fire, they would have had to use force to enter.
“We have to take out the front wall of the building before it is safe for use to go in there,” Lawless said. “Out of the entire block of buildings, only two buildings were undamaged by the flames: the building on the southwest corner of Ohio 125 and North Main; and the building on the northwest corner of Cherry Street. The four other buildings were totally destroyed.”
Lawless counted the buildings as a total loss and estimated the minimum loss at “at least $1 million-plus.”
Lawless said he is still waiting from an official determination of the cause of a 1998 fire in Georgetown which took out several buildings a block to the north of the area which burned Monday. Hometown Pizza and the adjacent building owned by Jay Cutrell were damaged in that fire.’
A law building, Brown Publishing’s News Democrat building which is owned by former publisher Joan Wood, attorney Jay Cutrell’s office building, and the CitiFinance building owned by Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Nehus were destroyed in Monday’s inferno.
Five apartments on the upper floors of the buildings were destroyed by the fire, leaving five people homeless.
Sixteen fire departments and more than 100 firefighters from departments in Brown and Adams counties joined with the Georgetown department to battle the blaze from the initial tone until 11 a.m. Georgetown firefighters remained throughout the day to extinguish smoldering embers which occasionally flared up.
Aerial trucks were used to attack the fire, Brookbank said.
“The fire had to be attacked fro the roof down,” said Brookbank. “we were very grateful for the four aerial trucks. We need those to lift us up high enough to force water downward on the fire.”