BELLAIRE - Smoke billowed from the south end of Bellaire at about 9:30 a.m. today as the former First Ward School caught fire, forcing surrounding residents to evacuate their homes.
Firefighters at the scene at first had a difficult time finding a working fire hydrant to use on the former school, now home to Electronics Recycling Services, 1731 Belmont St.
The blaze began in the basement of the main structure and quickly spread to a new addition, workers at the scene said. Warehouse Supervisor Donny Maupin said the fire started in the basement of the main building where they store the final product before it is shredded and destroyed.
Smoke pours from the
windows of the old First Ward School this morning, now home to
Services after a fire reportedly started in the basement of the main structure. Neffs, Shadyside and Martins Ferry
firefighters worked to
extinguish the blaze.
"It was a freak thing. I don't know what happened," said Maupin, who witnessed flames shoot across a work station area in the basement of the building where there are normally six crew members working.
He said fortunately those employees were not yet working in that area or it could have turned out much more disastrous. He said he felt extremely fortunate that everyone was able to get out of the building uninjured.
Electronics Recycling Services Plant Manager Jim Johnston said 29 employees were working in the plant at the time the fire began near one of the machines in the warehouse section of the plant. The fire eventually spread to a newer addition in front of the old school building.
"Everybody is out safe and sound," Johnson said.
Neffs, Shadyside and Martins Ferry firefighters initially responded to the fire. Motorists who were pulling off the side of Ohio 7 to witness the event were asked to leave the scene by Bellaire police officers for safety reasons.