POLAND VILLAGE, Ohio (WYTV) – The second floor of Poland’s oldest building caught fire Wednesday afternoon, sending more than 40 firefighters to the scene to battle the flames.
Four fire departments responded when water and electricity caused a short and set fire to a bathroom on the second floor of the Old Stone Tavern in Poland Village. Two people inside the building were evacuated safely after an off-duty Austintown volunteer firefighter first spotted the fire.
“I noticed the back window was busted out and there were flames out the window,” said Greg Neff, the volunteer firefighter who was leaving work when he saw the fire.
New Middletown, Boardman, Springfield and Western Reserve Fire Departments worked to put out flames at the antique store, which is on Main Street in Poland Village. Jonathan Fowler, one of the founders of Poland Village, built the Old Stone Tavern in 1804, and it was the site where President William McKinley was sworn in to the Union Army in 1861. It has served as a home, general store, tavern and hotel as a place where stagecoaches would often stop on the highway between Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
Poland firefighters were able to respond immediately to the fire at the historic building, because the fire station is directly next door.
“It raises the level of concern a little bit, because it is relatively close to the building,” said David “Chip” Comstock, chief of the Western Reserve Joint Fire District.
Comstock said that flames spread from the second floor up to the attic of the structure, but that the water and smoke damage is “relatively minor” because Neff spotted it so early on, adding that the upper floors of the building are able to be salvaged.
“The good news is it’s a very solidly-built building, which limits the damage,” Comstock said. “What’s tricky is there are walls upon walls and roof layers upon roof layers. It’s old-time construction. You don’t find people building stuff like that anymore. So you have to find people who know what they’re doing.”
Single-digit temperatures forced fire crews to rotate in and out fighting the fire and smoke. The coldest day so far this winter “really tests” the firefighters, according to Comstock.
“When you’re utilizing water to put fires out, it makes it a lot more trying on the firefighters,” Comstock said. “Their skin’s exposed. We’re out here, and then we add water into the mix. Just like everybody else is subject to frostbite, so are we.”